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R.N.R., M.P. 








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We live in deeds, not years ; in 

Thoughts, not breaths, 
In feelings, not in figures on a dial. 
We should count time by heart-throbs. 
He most lives who thinks most, feels 

The noblest, acts the best. 









Ancestry and parentage Childhood memories The 
little house at Pool An anecdote The hole in the 
ceiling Early years in Cornwall The first job 
A schoolmaster and an inkpot The young time- 
keeper A Redruth drummer-boy Trevithick's 
engine An apprentice at Cam Brea A specula- 
tion Swindon Making ends meet A happening 
fraught with consequences .... 1 


A " moonlight flit " West Hartlepool A rough ex- 
perience Off to sea Promotion to second en- 
gineer A freemason An awkward situation 
Facing the music The Board of Trade certificate 
Shore work at Newport Back to sea again 
The youthful engineer A glance forward The 
chance that was taken The Royal Naval Reserve 
A broken promise Resignation and a letter 
A new career ...... 13 


A partnership that fell through Surveys and insurance 
The first balance-sheet A moment of depres- 
sion The ray of sunshine that was real A post 



as Marine Superintendent and consulting engineer 
The reward for saving money Some inventions 
A lecturer to engineering students Selected for 
a 1000 a year position Earthquakes and hail- 
storms Sir Richard Tangye The turning-point 
in a career A shipowner for fourpence ! . .23 


A fateful meeting The peer, the engineer, and the 
clergyman who didn't like cigars " I owe you 
fourpence" Lord de Blaquiere A jocular re- 
mark and its result A suggestion from Mr. Jones 
An offer The way to become a shipowner 
Two disappointments A curse on Consols The 
story of a fountain pen The turret ship The 
answer to opportunity ..... 32 


An order that could not be obeyed A quick decision 
Champion of the British seaman A clear state- 
ment Some appreciations One hundred weeks 
A postcard sent to shareholders ... 42 


The first turret steamer of the " Hall " Line Her 
maiden voyage A working account " R.N.R. 
men preferred " A record The second turret 
Secrets of success The third turret and four 
others The London Coliseum Other activities 
A personal narrative A break with the bank 
Sir Edward Holden's offer 52 




The Cardiff City Council The representative for the 
South ward The way to fill up odd moments 
Nazareth House The beginnings of a big crusade 
The seamen's boarding houses of 1908 An in- 
terview The first inquiry A resolution Letters 
of thanks Some practical suggestions Justifica- 
tion An appeal to Parliament A City Council 
committee's resolution . . . < . 64 


P.P.I, policies An undesirable state of affairs 
Gambling on overdues The exposure of an evil 
A prompt demand A visit to the Board of 
Trade The deputation A quick result A 
tribute in verse A successful assault-at-arms 
The vexed problem of the load-line Revolu- 
tionary proposals The Bute leases A champion 
of the rights of lease-holders In the public eye 
" Another docks tickler "Profits of the " Hall " 
Line Two illuminated addresses ... 82 


Resignation as a Councillor The invitation that was 
not sent A key returned The bombshell What 
a newspaper thought An extract from the 
minutes of the Cardiff City Council Restlessness 
The Cardiff Naval Brigade The main idea A 
check The Admiralty's explanation The first 
parade Another balance-sheet The progress of 
the " Hall " Line A strike story A quiet year 
A Cardiff motorist Agriculture and its attrac- 
tions A Cornish dinner A toothsome menu 
An incident at Monte Carlo A collection of cen- 
times, a remark and the " Nicholl luck " A 



boom in shipping A prophecy that came true A 
helping hand The " Hall " Line in 1913 The 
price paid for a paper rose A wonderful miniature 
railway The laying-up of ships The aisles of 
Time 103 


The outbreak of war The ships of the " Hall " Line 
and Nicholl Steamships, Ltd. The chief examina- 
tion officer Three years' work Letters of all 
kinds A strong protest A note that brought 
censure The reply Another protest Sugges- 
tions on the submarine service that were adopted 
Items from a diary A request to be released 
What other people thought An application for a 
medal The man who gets least A plain state- 
ment The curse of red-tape .... 133 


Knighted for war services Some letters received A 
splendid gift The physical well-being of the child 
Petrol Control officer A letter to the Press 
The difficulties of giving away 50,000 " When 
I am boxed up "The " Edward Nicholl " Home 
Conditions of the founder's gift An ambition 
realised Other benefactions . . . .160 


The second big crusade Spies in Bristol Channel ports 
The sinking of the " Glenart Castle " A reply 
from Mr. W. Brace, M.P. Facts and figures 
What four ship-joiners had to say Corroboration 
from the police-courts The Admiralty's answer to 
a question Averting a strike Dr. Macnamara's 
statement Positive proof A new order The 



scandal of the excessive provisioning of ships 
Departure from the shipping world Why thirteen 
steamers were sold A matter of patriotism A 
big deal with Messrs. Furness, Withy and Company 
Letters to shareholders The transfer of the 
Cardiff " Hall " Line A letter and telegram to 
the President of the Board of Trade . . .178 


Parliament Member for the Penryn-Falmouth Divi- 
sion On the kerb at Westminster Racing for a 
seat An amusing incident Should a Member of 
Parliament be bled ? A parliamentary letter bag 
Trouble over a subscription "Cussed, dis- 
cussed and held-up" A ten months' record 
Out of his element One reason why Sir Edward 
Nicholl will be remembered A view of Parlia- 
ment 206 


Littleton Park How it was purchased Success after 
thirty-seven failures A wonderful old house 
Where King William IV sought distraction and 
King Henry VII hunted A fascinating tablet 
The sailor who turned farmer Shorthorns, Guern- 
seys, and chickens ...... 228 


The " Nicholl Luck " Some accidents A Trades 
Union Congress luncheon Another at Redruth 
A speech A favourite motto His lucky day 
Financial speculations Hobbies Sport Love of 
children A dinner to the Prince of Wales The 
singer who forgot his glasses The " M.P. engine- 
driver " Conclusion 236 


Commander Sir Edward Nicholl, R.N.B., M.P. Frontispiece 


The house at Pool, Cornwall, where Sir Edward Nicholl 

was born . > ' ^ 

The Redruth Volunteer Band (Sir Edward Nicholl seated 

in the front row, on the left) . . ... 8 

Sir Edward Nicholl in his early days as a drummer-boy in 

the Redruth Volunteer Band . , ; . . . 12 

Sir Edward Nicholl at various ages . . . . 18 
Sir Edward NicholTs Father and Grandfather ... 26 
Sir Edward Nicholl driving to his Cardiff office, 1906 . . 42 

The s.s. " Grindon Hall," one of the steamers of the Cardiff 

" Hall " Line . . . ... . 68 

Nazareth House children at " The Nook," Cardiff . 100 

The Cardiff Naval Brigade (Sir Edward Nicholl in the 

centre) . . . ' ' . . . ' . 110 

A portrait study of Sir Edward Nicholl in naval uniform . 134 

Sir Edward Nicholl and the Officers, N.C.O.'s and Men of 

the Severn Defences . . . . . .148 

Officers of the Bristol Channel Examination Service {Sir 

Edward Nicholl in centre of bottom row) . . . 158 

A group which includes Sir Edward Nicholl, Lord Charles 

Beresford, and Mr. Dan Radcliffe (standing right) . 166 

Sir Edward Nicholl setting out to do work connected with 

the Examination Service . . . * . .176 

Sir Edward Nicholl in Court Dress . . . . 188 

The Edward Nicholl Home, Cardiff . . . .196 

The Edward Nicholl Wards at the King Edward VII 

Hospital, Cardiff 20Q 



Sir Edward Nicholl and one of his numerous small friends . 218 

Littleton Park, Shepperton, Middlesex, showing south-east 

elevation ........ 228 

Sir Edward Nicholl on the footplate of the engine he drove 

during the railway strike, 1919 .... 244 



Littleton Park, Shepperton, Middlesex . ... 1 

The Hall, Littleton Park 2 

A view of the grounds, Littleton Park .... 3 

The dining-room, Littleton Park ..... 4 

The library, Littleton Park ...... 5 

The ball-room, Littleton Park 6 

The billiard-room and conservatory, Littleton Park . . 7 

The cattle-houses, Littleton Park ..... 8 

Shorthorns at Littleton Park ...... 9 

Some of the chicken-houses, Littleton Park ... 10 
The river and water-wheel, Littleton Park . . .11 


THE main difficulty in the compilation of 
this volume was in finding some particular 
person to whom it could be dedicated. So many 
names presented themselves that for a time it 
looked as though one page at least would have to 
be devoted to the many who are entitled to be 
regarded as Sir Edward NicholPs friends. In 
despair, the author presented the problem to Sir 
Edward, in the hope that a solution would be 
found. This was the written reply : 

Now you have indeed struck the middle wicket ! 
I have such a host of friends that the mere 
thought of attempting to single out any one per- 
plexes me. I feel like the widow who was asked 
to part with one of her nine children. A kindly 
sympathiser, anxious to help her, offered to adopt 
one. She pondered the point for many days, but 
in the end she found that she loved them all alike. 
To part with one was out of the question. 

I find myself in much the same position. Who, 
of all my many friends, should I single out ? 
There are perhaps those who will remark, when 
they come to the end of this book, that Mr. Henry 
Radcliffe should have been selected. " But for 
him," I can almost hear the reader saying, " what 


would have become of Edward Nicholl ? " Quite ! 
It is just possible that but for Henry Radcliffe I 
might have become a second Cecil Rhodes, or, on 
the other hand, I might to-day have been the 
manager of an engineering works or something of 
that kind. But take it from me, my dear bio- 
grapher, I should have been on top somewhere. 

It was, of course, Mr. Radcliffe who stopped 
me from spending my savings on a voyage to 
South Africa. He told me, very rightly, that for- 
tunes were made in South Wales as well as South 
Africa. As a prophet, I take off my hat to Mr. 

I am reminded of another story. Years ago I 
had a call from Mr. Richard Cory, one of Cardiff's 
very rich men. Hardly had he seated himself in 
my office when a lady, collecting for some church 
or chapel, knocked at the door. On learning her 
errand I referred her to Mr. Cory. " You have 
dropped in at a most opportune moment," I re- 
marked. " Let me introduce you to Mr. Richard 
Cory, the great philanthropist." For a moment 
the lady looked at Mr. Cory. Then, " The Lord 
has been very good to you, Mr. Cory," she said. 
" Yes," answered Mr. Cory, a little ruefully, " and 
I have been very good to the Lord ! " Which 
means, of course, that although South Wales has 
done much for Mr. Radcliffe, he, in turn, has done 
much for South Wales, his ships giving employ- 
ment to thousands. 

But if I do not pick him out as the man to 
whom this book should be dedicated, it is solely 
because so many other good friends occur to my 


mind. There is Mr. William P. Annear, for ex- 
ample. It was in his garden, one Saturday after- 
noon, in the long ago, that my first prospectus 
was drafted. I owe Mr. Annear a great debt of 
gratitude. Then, too, there is my late employer, 
Mr. William Jones. To me he was more like a 
father than an employer ; he was responsible for 
the happiest ten years of my life. There is 
nothing I would not have done to have served 
him. Out of the myriad names that occur to me 
I feel I must mention Mr. Joe Frazer (one of my 
dearest friends), Mr. Dan Radcliffe, who was 
always to the fore in advice and hospitality, 
Lord Glanely, Mr. John Cory, Sir Herbert Cory, 
Bart., M.P., Mr. John Hocking, of Redruth, Sir 
William Diamond, Lord de Blaquiere, Sir 
William Seager, M.P. always encouraging when 
things looked black Mr. Frederick Knight, who 
invested the first 3000 with me when I became 
a shipowner, Mr. Richard Christopher, another 
good friend who must have invested 20,000 with 
me, and Mr. Richard Richards, the genial manager 
of the London City and Midland Bank, and better 
known to his intimates as " Dicky Dick." 

Whom shall I select from all these ? I would 
rather be spared the very difficult task. Instead 
I would say : These are my friends. To them, 
and to many more unnamed, this book is dedi- 


IF any excuse is needed for this volume, it will 
be found in Carlyle's oft-quoted saying that 
" there is no life of a man, faithfully recorded, 
but is a heroic poem of its sort, rhymed or u 
rhymed." The fallacy that no man's biography 
should be written until he is dead still exists ; but 
if a career can be sketched so that it will act as 
a stimulus, as an incentive to one just starting on 
life's journey, or if the mere reading of that which 
has been collected gives satisfaction to only one 
or two, then the life of every man who has 
achieved something ought to be prepared long 
before he seeks his rest. It is largely in the hope 
that these pages will prove encouraging to some 
who are on the threshold of a career that the book 
has been written. 

This is a story of a life lived to the full ; of set- 
backs ; of black moments ; of periods of sun- 
shine ; of chances taken ; of grim, grinding 
endeavour. It is a tale of a man who, from his 
earliest days, was determined to step away from 
the crowd. That he succeeded is not remarkable, 
for he mixed ability with courage, business 
acumen with honesty, and clear-sighted vision 
with hard, never-ending toil. 


It has been rightly said that Sir Edward Nicholl 
is the architect of his own fortunes. He inherited 
nothing save brains and the fighting spirit, yet he 
built for himself a position in the world which 
only the few attain. Full years, brave years, were 
those he gave to the great steamship line which 
he controlled ; but he lent himself quite as 
readily and quite as whole-heartedly to the State 
when England called for men of his kind ; whilst 
his brief but breezy career as a City Councillor of 
Cardiff was only rivalled by the energy which he 
later displayed in ridding the country of spies. 

It is always fascinating to bring together the 
threads of a well-lived, successful life, but when 
the threads are in reality splendid strands of un- 
flagging zeal, then the fascination is at least 
trebled. The compilation of this volume has been 
such a pleasure that it can only be hoped that 
some of the enjoyment derived by the writer will 
be shared by the reader. 

My work was made comparatively easy by the 
circumstance that Sir Edward has always been 
remarkably methodical. Busy men, as a rule, 
do not keep a record of passing events ; they have 
so little leisure. Sir Edward Nicholl found time 
to do all sorts of unusual things. When it was 
decided that this biography should be undertaken 
he handed me a number of books and documents 
that, when sifted, were a complete narrative in 
themselves. I am indebted to him for the readi- 


ness with which he placed all the necessary 
material at my disposal, as I am to the editors 
of the various newspapers and journals from 
whose pages I have so frequently quoted. 

LONDON, December, 1920. 




1862 (June 17th). Edward Nicholl born at Pool, Corn- 
1865. Early Schooldays at Pool. 

Removal to Redruth. 
1872. Telegraph Messenger-boy, Letter-stamper, and 

Sorting-clerk at Redruth Post Office. 
1874. Assistant Timekeeper at Carn Brea Railway 


Drummer-boy in the Redruth Volunteer Band. 
Choir-boy at Redruth Church. 
Member of the Redruth Choral Society. 
1876. Engineering Apprentice at Cam Brea. 

Student at Camborne Science and Art School. 

1880. Apprentice at the Great Western Railway Works 

at Swindon. 

1881. Member Swindon Town Band and Orchestral 

Assistant Master at Swindon Science and Art 

Member of the Orchestra of the Swindon 

Dramatic Society. 

1882. Journeyman at Messrs. Thos. Richardson's, West 


Third Engineer s.s. " Wave." 
Second Engineer s.s. " Portugalette." 

1883. Foreman at Ship-repairing Yard and Foundry 

of Messrs. Richards & Hopkins, Newport, Mon. 




1888. Became a Freemason. 
Chief Engineer s.s. " Ross." 

Foreman at Ship-repairing Yard of Messrs. Lang 

& Williamson, Newport, Mon. 
Member Newport Fire Brigade. 
Chief Engineer s.s. " Ancient Briton." 

1884. Chief Engineer s.s. " Gwenllian Thomas." 
Shipwrecked on the Spanish Coast near Bilbao. 
Brought vessel back to the Tyne. 

1885. Chief Engineer s.s. " W. I. Radcliffe." 

1889. Granted a Commission in the Royal Naval 


1886-1893. Chief Engineer s.s. " Llanberis " and four 
other steamers owned by Messrs. Evan Thomas, 
Radcliffe & Company. 

1893. Appointed Assistant-Superintendent and Con- 

sulting Engineer to Messrs. Evan Thomas, 
Radcliffe & Company. 

First start in business. 

Member of the Institute of Naval Architects. 

First Partnership at Newport. 

Partnership dissolved. 

Started new business at 21, High Street, New- 
port, and West Bute Street, Cardiff. 

Resigned from Newport Fire Brigade. 

Agent for typewriters, etc., and for Insurance 

1894. Appointed Marine Superintendent and Consult- 

ing Engineer to Messrs. W. & C. T. Jones, 

Member Institute of Mining Engineers. 
1895-1903. Lecturer on Engineering subjects at Cardiff 

Started " Hero " Metal Company, Ltd., Chair- 
man of Directors. 


1895-1903. Patented a movable grain division for 

the carriage of grain cargoes. 
Invented Tramway Life-saving Appliance. 
Selected for a post worth 1000 per annum. 
Salved s.s. " Chas. T. Jones " at Constantinople. 
Superintended the building and fitting of nine 

steamers for Messrs. W. & C. T. Jones. 
Made many trips abroad. 
Met Sir Richard Tangye. 
1903. Met Lord de Blaquiere on railway journey 

between Cardiff and London. 
Decided to become a Shipowner. 
Signed an agreement to remain with Messrs. W. & 

C. T. Jones for five years, on condition that 

time was given to work up own business. 
1904-1907. Launch of the s.s. " Whateley Hall," first 

turret ship of the Cardiff " Hall " line, the 

" Eaton Hall," " Grindon Hall," and " Tre- 

degar Hall." 
Founded the " Nicholl Prizes " for Students at 

the City of Cardiff Technical Schools. 
Bought the " Welbeck Hall " and started the 

" Silksworth Hall " and " Haigh Hall." 
Chairman Reconstruction Committee, London 


Member Cardiff Shipowners' Association. 
Member Cardiff Chamber of Commerce. 
1907. Member Cardiff City Council. 

Interviewed Mr. Gladstone on Miners' Eight 

Hours Bill. 
Opposed Taff Vale Railway Bill in the House of 

Member of the Committee Bureau Veritas 

Registration Society. 


1907. Director Penarth Pontoon Company, Taff Vale 

Appointed Arbitrator Welsh Coal Charter. 

1908. President Nazareth House, Cardiff. 
Chairman Cardiff Docks Conservatiye Associa- 

Opened Offices at Newport, Barry, and Port 

Revealed the condition of affairs prevailing in 

Seamen's boarding houses at Cardiff. 
Started campaign against " P.P.I." Policies. 
Organised Assault-at-Arms for Nazareth House. 

1909. Submitted proposals to solve the problem of the 

Raised the question of the Bute Leases at 

Cardiff City Council. 
Presented with an Illuminated Address by the 

Inmates of Nazareth House. 
Bought s.s. " Windsor Hall." 

1910. Resigned from Cardiff City Council. 
Founded Cardiff Naval Brigade. 

Member of the Royal Institution of Cornwall. 
Member Shipowners' Protecting and Indemnity 


Bought s.s. " Standish Hall." 

1912. Vice-President Cardiff Shipowners' Association. 
Bought first motor-car. 
President Cardiff Union and Glamorganshire 

Agricultural Society. 
President Cardiff Cornish Society, and gave a 

banquet to 530 guests. 
Vice-President Miners' Hospital, Redruth. 
President Cardiff Engineering Technical Society. 
Sold " Welbeck Hall." 


1913. Statement issued of profits made by the " Hall " 


s.s. " Cardiff Hall's " first voyage. 
Paid One Hundred Guineas for an " Alexandra 

Day " rose. 

1914. Elected Chairman Cardiff and Bristol Channel 

Shipowners' Association. 

Built a model railway at " The Nook," Cardiff. 

Advocated the construction of a new dock at 

Fought the proposal to lay up ships. 

Nicholl Steamships, Ltd., started. 

Appointed Chief Examining Officer and Com- 
mander Bristol Channel Examination Service. 

Member of the Committee of the Navy League. 

1915. Chief Examination Officer Bristol Channel. 

1916. Knighted for War Services. 

Gave 10,000 to King Edward VII Hospital, 

Offered 50,000 to King Edward VII Hospital, 
Cardiff, for Maternity and Child-welfare Homes. 

Founded the Edward Nicholl Home for Waifs and 

Elected Member Carlton Club, London ; Con- 
stitutional Club, London ; Glamorgan County 
Club, Cardiff. 

Pricked by H.M. the King for High Sheriff of 

Nominated J.P. for Glamorganshire. 

1917. Resigned appointment as Chief Examination 

Officer Bristol Channel, and appointed Petrol 
Control Officer for South Wales and Mon- 

Sold the Cardiff "Hall" Line & Edward 
Nicholl Steamships, Ltd., and so severed 
connection with shipping. 


1917. Started campaign against spies being allowed to 

wander at will on docks. 

1918. Resigned appointment as Petrol Control Officer. 
Elected Member of Parliament for Penryn 

Falmouth Division. 
Bought Littleton Park, Middlesex, and became 

Lord of the Manor of Littleton. 
Chairman of several Committees in the House of 


Vice-President Royal Cornwall Polytechnic. 
President of the Merchant Seamen's League. 

1919. Drove a Passenger Train during Railway Strike 

between Swindon, Reading, and London. 

Chairman Political Committee London Constitu- 
tional Club. 

Member of the Committee, Beecham Trust, 
London (Dunlop Pool). 

1920. Nominated President Royal Cornwall Show, 

Attempted to settle Coal Strike by bringing 

together Mr. W. C. Bridgeman, M.P., and 

Mr. W. Brace, M.P., at Littleton Park. 
Member Shorthorn and Guernsey Societies of 

Great Britain. 
Chairman Committee Seamen's War Memorial 

Convalescent Home, Limpsfield. 






Perseverance and tact are the two great qualities most 
valuable for all men who would mount, but especially for 
those who have to step out of the crowd. DISRAELI. 

T71DWARD NICHOLL was born at Pool, a 
I J tiny Cornish village between Redruth and 
Camborne, on June 17th, 1862. It is on record 
that the day was one of gorgeous sunshine I 
mention the matter partly to emphasise the 
remarkable memories of the good people with 
whom I conversed in the autumn of 1920, and 
partly to put point to the ancient saying that 
sunshine always attends those who are born in the 
sunshine. The new arrival was a lusty infant, 
and thoroughly typical of his stock. It is still 
said by those who remember his swaddling 
clothes days, that his first considered effort was 
to make perfectly clear that what he wanted he 
wanted very badly indeed, which is perhaps 
only another way of saying that when he used 

his lungs he promptly drowned the creaking 
noises of the little mine tramcars which ran 
outside his door. 

Of his own people no one is better qualified 
to speak than Sir Edward himself. I extract 
the following from a short statement which he 
wrote at my request : 

The first entry in the old family Bible in my 
possession is dated October 28th, 1697. It 
appears, however, that my ancestors can be 
traced back to a still earlier date, for my old 
friend, John Chellew, of Falmouth, whilst exam- 
ining some records, came across the following 
in the Phillack Parish Register : 

November 15th, 1573. James, son of 
Edward Nicholl, to Elinor, daughter of 
Robert Jenkin. 

By this it would appear that the name Edward 
has been in the family for many generations. 

The original owner of the Bible lived at St. 
Ives, Cornwall, and married one Ann Bennett, 
by whom he had 26 children. ... I well remem- 
ber my grandfathers. My paternal grandfather 
was an auctioneer and estate agent at Redruth ; 
my maternal grandfather, James Mitchell, was a 
well-known engineer, and lived at Perranwell, 
near Falmouth, where the family of John Michael 
Williams had large engineering works. Some 
600 men were employed, and it is a point of 
interest that many celebrated Cornishmen 
including Sir Robert Harvey, of Drumlanrig, 

near Totnes served their apprenticeship there. 
My grandfather was manager of these works. 

My father was, for the whole of his life, em- 
ployed, first as draughtsman, then as chief 
accountant, on the Cornwall Railway. When a 
very young man he was associated with the great 
engineer, Brunei, in the building of Saltash Bridge, 
and then, successively, he became identified with 
the old West Cornwall Railway, the South Devon 
and West Cornwall Railway, and finally with the 
Great Western Railway, when the latter acquired 
the line. He retired from the service of the Great 
Western Railway at the age of 65, and died at 
Plymouth in his 73rd year. 

My mother to whose influence and loving care 
I will never be able to pay sufficient tribute was 
one of the sweetest women who ever lived. 
Always ready to foster my ambitions, she did 
more to set my feet on the path to success than 
anyone else. She died at my house in the 83rd 
year of her age, in 1915. 

Our family was a large one, but that may not 
be regarded as remarkable, for many children, has 
been a sort of tradition with the Nicholls as far 
back as can be traced. ... I can still remember 
incidents in my life at Pool, where I was born, 
although I could have been no more than three 
years of age when my father and mother decided 
to remove to Redruth. I recollect being carried 
to a small school at Pool, but it seems to me now 
that I must have been sent there to be kept out 
of mischief, for I was much too young to learn 
anything. But the house where I was born, and 


the school and the little village street, are as 
green in my memory now as are things that hap- 
pened in the days when I was old enough to store 
memories. Because I left Pool as a child, how- 
ever, I have always been considered as a product 
of Redruth, and it is a fact that my affections 
naturally centre around Redruth more than in 
the village in which I first saw the light. 

I had an unexpected opportunity of testing Sir 
Edward's memory when we visited Pool in Sep- 
tember, 1920. He had told me of things that had 
happened when he could not have been more than 
two years of age, and, if the truth be told for I 
had harked back myself, and had found that my 
recollections really started when I was about ten 
I was inclined to think that he was using me 
for his favourite pastime of leg-pulling. (It may 
be remarked here that had Sir Edward become 
a professional raconteur instead of a business man 
he would certainly have attained fame, if not for- 
tune. I once heard him tell an open-mouthed 
company of distinguished people why it was he 
particularly wanted to become Speaker of the 
House of Commons. His deadly earnestness, his 
serious face, his apparent revelation of a hidden 
and long-cherished desire, held everyone spell- 
bound for many minutes. And then, with a 
phrase, Sir Edward raised a laugh the echo of 
which must have been heard miles away. He 
explained that he wished to become Speaker so 


To face page 4 





that he could turn a bulldog on to a certain 
member of the House of Commons who had be- 
come notorious for the readiness with which he 
sprang to his feet to talk on any conceivable sub- 
ject. It was the choicest example of leg-pulling 
of which he is a master I had ever encoun- 
tered. It was one of the joys of a thoroughly 
remarkable evening.) 

We arrived at Pool at an hour in the morning 
when housewives are said to receive visitors with 
ill-concealed sniffs of displeasure. We must have 
been fortunate, for we were welcomed at Ada 
Terrace by a lady who, if a little flustered and 
naturally was ready and anxious to show us all 
we wanted to see. 

The house in Ada Terrace is to-day exactly as 
it was sixty years ago. Three steps from the 
front door lands one in the main street ; the six 
tiny rooms are as unpretentious as the exterior. 
But there was no denying the wistfulness with 
which the man who had been born there viewed 
it. His thoughts at that moment were not re- 
vealed to his companion, and perhaps they have 
no place in this volume, but it has been re- 
marked by some writer that no one is able to 
look at the home of his childhood without ex- 
periencing a thrill that nothing else on earth can 

The present occupier of the house remembered 
Sir Edward, 


' This is where you spent your baby days," she 
exclaimed as with a comprehensive gesture she 
indicated the small front room where we stood. 

" Yes," came the answer, a trifle low, as though 
the man who spoke was still diving back into the 
dim past. " Yes, I well remember this room. 
But it's the other one next door that is clearest 
in my mind. Is the hook still in the right-hand 
corner of the ceiling ? " 

" The hook ? The hook ? " 

The present occupier of the house in Ada 
Terrace looked disturbed. It was all too obvious 
that she had never seen a hook in the ceiling of 
the room next door. 

" Yes," answered Sir Edward. " We used to 
have a hammock swung from the ceiling. There 
was a large hook in the right-hand corner." 

Upon investigation we found that, although the 
hook had long since gone the way of all things, 
the marks of the hole into which it was screwed 
were still visible. 

" Wonderful," murmured the lady of the house, 
or words to that effect, as she stepped away and 
bestowed a look of absolute awe on her visitor. 
I agreed. It was wonderful. Men who can re- 
member trifling things like hooks and hammocks 
are most certainly entitled to looks of awe. 

But haven't we here the beginnings of an ex- 
planation ? Are not memories and a regard for 
details links in the chain that carry one to success? 
It would seem so in the case of Sir Edward Nicholl, 


I have since discovered that all his life he has set 
great store on details. If I were asked to select 
his most prominent characteristic, I would vote 
for his methodical ways. But his attention to 
details would come a close second. 

And lest carping critics should complain that 
this book is inclined to wander let it be written 
here that, although an attempt will be made to 
deal with incidents and happenings in their 
chronological order, the chief aim of the writer is 
to sketch adequately a life which has been as full 
of incident as an egg is full of meat. 

Because of that there must be wanderings ; 
little digressions that may seem of no account. 
It would be easy to deal with dates and occur- 
rences, but this is not intended to be a biography 
in the accepted sense of the word. It is, rather, 
a running narrative of the career of one who has 
made good. No set plan will be followed ; if an 
anecdote, or happening, occurs to the memory 
and it is apropos, it will be included ; but the 
main purpose is to create a mind picture. I want 
those who read to see Sir Edward Nicholl as I have 
seen him ; as I believe he is. Flattery, or any 
attempt to gild the lily, will be avoided like the 
plague. This is a plain, unvarnished story, but 
if at the end it is said by only a few that the man 
as he is has been but dimly seen, nearly all that 
the writer has set out to do will have been accom- 


Edward Nicholl's early years in Redruth were 
those of the average boy. He attended school, he 
played games, he experienced all the small woes 
of the youthful male. He is chiefly remembered 
by his intimates for his absolute refusal to be sat 
upon. Even in those days he was a champion of 
others. His friends found in him a stalwart sup- 
porter whenever boyish troubles broke out, but 
he arrived at his tenth year with no more than a 
moderate number of battles to his credit. That 
he was a diligent scholar is asserted by those in 
the best position to judge ; indeed, it is said that 
at ten years of age he " wrote a fist " the phrase 
is not mine that would have done credit to one 
very much older. And he had a head for figures. 
That fact, too, is vouched for, and is not in the 
least difficult to believe. 

He was still under eleven years of age when he 
started his working career. It was a holiday job, 
stamping letters at the local post office and de- 
livering telegrams. Sir Edward admits that he 
was very proud of himself at that period. He 
was earning two shillings and sixpence per week, 
but the fact that he was actually at work gave 
him more satisfaction than the tiny wage. The 
schoolboy has yet to be born who thinks that 
work is -a less enjoyable pastime than lessons. 
But it is pleasant to record that when young 
Edward gave up his post to return to school the 
local postmistress reported that he had proved 

w a 



Sq > 


9 AUG1926 




himself to be one of the most willing workers the 
office had known. 

His twelfth birthday was, in its way, a minor 
tragedy. He celebrated it by throwing an inkpot 
at the head of his schoolmaster, after being un- 
justly thrashed. He never saw the school again, 
except from the outside, for next day he entered 
the Cam Brea Railway Works as an assistant 
timekeeper. His starting wage was five shillings 
per week. At about the same time he became a 
drummer boy in the Redruth Volunteer Rifle 
Corps, a choir boy at Redruth Church, and in 
case he had any odd moments he further in- 
dulged a taste for music by joining the Redruth 
Choral Society. 

" He was a ruddy faced, pleasant-mannered 
little lad in those days," said one who knew him 
well, in answer to my question. " As a drummer- 
boy he was one of the finest we ever had in 
Redruth. I have always wondered since whether 
there has ever been just such another drummer- 
boy. To see him stalking up the Redruth main 
street beating his drum was one of the sights of 
the old town." 

Two pleasant years were spent timekeeping, 
drumming, and singing. There was plenty to do 
at Carn Brea. The assistant timekeeper's prin- 
cipal duties were to collect the tickets after the 
workmen had deposited them in a box, enter up 
times, replace the tickets on the boards, check, 


and keep the necessary time-sheets. There were 
also lots of odd jobs in the general office, but it 
was the drawing office that called loudest to the 
boy. He spent much of his time there ; it was 
in the drawing office, as a matter of fact, that his 
imagination was first stirred by hearing the story 
of Richard Trevithick's famous engine. 

There is a little hill that runs down into the 
main street of Redruth. It was there that Tre- 
vithick made his early experiments ; there, too, 
that the young timekeeper allowed his dreams to 
run riot. The result was that when he was about 
fourteen years of age he entered the engineering 
and loco, shops of the Great Western Railway at 
Carn Brea as a full-blown apprentice under the 
late Sir Daniel Gooch. 

Industry and close application were apparently 
his chief characteristics at this stage of his life. 
He joined the Camborne Science and Art classes, 
and at fifteen obtained a prize from the Royal 
Cornwall Polytechnic Society for a longitudinal 
section and plan drawing of a locomotive engine. 
At the same time he made his first speculation in 
mining shares. That, however, did not produce 
any prize ; on the other hand, some hard-earned 
money changed pockets. 

It is a point of interest, however, that at fifteen 
he was capable of being tempted by the prospect 
of a financial flutter. He has had many since, but 
it is doubtful whether any has given him so much 


worry as that first one in Cornish mining shares. 
I am reminded that just before this book was 
started he was asked to take over almost lock, 
stock, and barrel one of the biggest Cornish 
mines. It was a proposition that did not par- 
ticularly appeal to him, but I still wonder whether 
his mind went back to that first little block of 
shares. I think it is very likely. 

At sixteen he was doing the work of a man, 
but as it was work that appealed to him he made 
no complaint. His evenings he spent in study. 
He obtained certificates from the Camborne 
Science and Art School for advanced machine 
drawing, for geometry, and for model and free- 
hand drawing. No other student approached him 
in these three subjects, and for two years he con- 
tinued to attend the school and to capture a 
goodly number of the prizes offered. 

At eighteen he left home for the first time. He 
was sent to Swindon to complete his apprentice- 
ship. When the notices were posted up at Carn 
Brea that the apprentices were to leave, Mr. John 
Hocking, a well-known mining engineer of Red- 
ruth, sent young Nicholl this letter. It is dated 
October 14th, 1880: 

The bearer, Mr. Edward Nicholl, has never 
been in our employ, yet we had hoped, as one of 
the promising young men of our neighbourhood, 
that an opportunity would arise of our being able 
to offer him some place to his advantage ; but 


we understand from him that he has now the 
opportunity of doing better elsewhere, and it 
therefore gives me pleasure to be able to certify, 
from many years' personal knowledge of him, of 
his general good character. From many conver- 
sations I have had with his late foreman, Mr. 
Finney, I have been led to think that we should 
have had the services of an intelligent and trust- 
worthy young man, had we a vacancy to offer, 
and I have pleasure in commending him to his 
future employers. 

Armed with this excellent testimonial, young 
Nicholl journeyed to Swindon, to find that he was 
expected to live on eleven shillings per week. He 
quickly discovered that that was impossible. He 
sought permission to work overtime, and eventu- 
ally made ends meet by putting in time and a 
quarter. Later still, so as to provide money for 
little luxuries, he joined the Swindon Town band, 
and became an assistant master at the Science 
and Art Schools. All this resulted in another 
eight shillings per week and it has to be re- 
membered that on winter evenings the young 
apprentice played the big drum, the side drum, 
the cymbals, and the triangle in the orchestra of 
the Swindon Dramatic Society ! 

And then, straight out of a clear sky, came a 
happening that was destined to have big conse- 

As a drummer boy in the Redruth Volunteer Eand 

To fc-ce page !_' 


9 AUG192L g] 


Chance will not do the work chance sends the breeze, 
But if the pilot slumber at the helm, 
The very wind that wafts us towards the port 
May dash us on the shelves. The steersman's part 
Is vigilance, blow it rough or smooth. SCOTT. 

HE was twenty a " growing lad," with an 
appetite that was never completely satis- 
fied when it dawned on him that for 15s. per 
week he was doing precisely the same work as 
the man in the next pit, who was drawing 33s. 
per week. Discontent came hard on the heels of 
discovery ; he was becoming more hungry every 
day. There was a small matter of a ring that 
had to be paid for ; and eventually, hearing that 
there was a boom in shipbuilding in the North of 
England, the apprentice adopted what to him at 
the time seemed a reasonable course. To use his 
own words : 

I decided on a moonlight flit. I journeyed to 
West Hartlepool, and arrived there one ghastly 
Monday morning without a copper in my pocket. 
I applied for work at Messrs. Thomas Richardson 
& Co., describing myself as a journeyman fitter. 
The luck must have been with me, for I was 
interviewed by Sir Thomas himself, who intro- 



duced me to his foreman, and gave instructions 
that I was to start at once. I actually com- 
menced work the next morning, the agreement 
being that I should work overtime two nights in 
each week. 

My experiences, however, were of a rather 
rough nature. I was called upon to join the 
Amalgamated Society of Engineers. I had no 
great objection to doing so, but as I had definitely 
made up my mind to go to sea when the chance 
offered I did not see the necessity. Things, as a 
consequence, were made unpleasant for me, and 
I was forced to engage in a good many fights. 
There was a set-to with someone nearly every 
day. There was always one on the overtime 

I stuck it for three months, and then, very 
reluctantly despite the fact that I had had a 
very hard time I gave up my job, and accepted 
a berth as third engineer on the s.s. " Wave," 
owned by Messrs. Ropner & Co. She was bound 
for the Baltic. The offer was made to me on a 
certain Saturday morning, and I sailed that night. 
My wages were 9 per month. When I was in- 
troduced to the captain a man named Whitburn 
the first thing he asked me was whether I was 
a Cornishman. On my replying in the affirma- 
tive, he mentioned that he himself was from 
Devoran. " We shall get on well together," said 
Captain Whitburn as he shook my hand. I am 
glad to say we did. 

I made two voyages on the " Wave," and re- 
turned to Newport, Mon., at the end of the 


second. There I was offered, and accepted, the 
berth as second engineer on the s.s. " Portu- 
galette," a two-thousand tonner, at 12 per month. 
It was when I was ashore at Newport, at this 
time, that I was made a Freemason. My lodge 
was the " Albert Edward, Prince of Wales." 

Some years later the " moonlight flit " from 
Swindon came back at the ex-apprentice like a 
boomerang. He was twenty-one, and his main 
ambition at the time was to pass the Board of 
Trade examination. It looked plain sailing, but 
on presenting himself he was informed that there 
were several formalities to be complied with. 
The first, and most important, was to produce 
certificates as to general character, etc., for the 
time of his apprenticeship. This was a poser. 
Sir Edward continues : 

Having left Swindon before completing my 
articles I had been bound for seven years I was 
up against it with a vengeance. For a time I 
was at a loss what to do, but finally I decided to 
take the only course possible under the circum- 
stances, which was to face the music. I accord- 
ingly travelled down to Swindon, saw Mr. Riley, 
the secretary to the General Manager, and, after 
expressing my regrets, I laid all my cards on the 
table. The lecture he gave me will last to my 
dying day, but in the end he promised to speak 
to Mr. Carlton, the General Manager. " But," 
remarked Mr. Riley, " be sure you do not see him 


until he has had his lunch." That was a piece of 
advice I almost regard it as a well-timed warn- 
ing which I have since not -only remembered, 
but acted upon whenever I have sought a favour. 

After lunch I was shown in to the General 
Manager. As I expected, he gave me a severe 
dressing down, but he was kindness personified, 
and I left the office, not only with a reference 
signed by Mr. Dean, the Chief Locomotive 
Superintendent, but with a recommendation to 
all and sundry that I was a good and capable 
workman. My certificate therefore being satis- 
factory, I quickly obtained my first Board of 
Trade certificate. It should be explained that 
the Board of Trade allowed a man to become 
second engineer on a steamer whose nominal 
horse-power did not register more than 99. My 
steamer was 150 n.h.p. So much for registration 
and for Board of Trade regulations and eva- 
sions ! 

After putting in the necessary time to qualify 
as a chief engineer I obtained my next certificate, 
and almost immediately after I was offered a 
position as foreman in a ship repairing works at 
Newport, Mon. I accepted, but only remained 
ashore for three months. Then I signed on as 
chief engineer of the s.s. " Ross," of Cardiff, a 
steamer owned by Messrs. John Cory & Sons. At 
that time I was on the authority of the Shipping 
Master at the Board of Trade Office the youngest 
chief engineer who had ever sailed from the port 
of Cardiff. My appearance was so youthful, in- 
deed if I was not actually a beardless boy, I 


was very nearly so that on arrival at the Black 
Sea port, Sulina, I was approached and asked, to 
my intense annoyance and indignation, if I was 
the engineer's steward. Never was my pride so 
terribly mangled ! 

I should have mentioned that during my stay 
ashore I became engineer of the Newport Fire 
Brigade. When I glance back now it seems to 
me that I was always on the look out for things 
that would fill up my spare time. I suppose that, 
in addition to being ambitious, I was restless. 

I spent a very pleasant time on the " Ross," 
but after some months I again quitted the sea 
and accepted another berth as foreman of a ship- 
repairing firm. I remained ashore for the winter, 
but with the spring came another call from the 
sea. I was anxious, too, to get in time to qualify 
for another Board of Trade certificate, so on this 
occasion I went off as chief engineer of the 
s.s. " Ancient Briton." I stayed with her eight 

As will be seen from this, the ex-apprentice 
who had never completed his articles had man- 
aged to do very well for himself. The letter from 
Mr. Dean, of the Engineer's Office of the Great 
Western Railway, written on August 12th, 1882, 
had helped very considerably. It is well worth 

I hereby certify that Edward Nicholl entered 
the service of the Great Western Railway Com- 
pany at Carn Brea and was apprenticed on the 


17th June, 1876, to the engine fitting. He was 
transferred to Swindon to complete his appren- 
ticeship on the 23rd October, 1880, and has been 
employed here up to the present time. During 
the time he has been at Swindon he has been very 
steady and attentive to his work and is a good 

One can only wonder what Mr. Dean would 
have thought if some prophet had whispered in 
his ear that the day was to come when the ex- 
apprentice was to be labelled by the Press of 
England as " the Millionaire M.P. who drove a 
Passenger Train during the 1919 Railway Strike! " 

Soon after leaving the s.s. " Ancient Briton " 
Edward Nicholl became identified with a well- 
known firm of Cardiff shipowners, Messrs. Evan 
Thomas, Radcliffe & Co. He was offered the post 
as chief engineer of the s.s. " Gwenllian Thomas." 
The first trip was to Gibraltar, but later, when 
proceeding to Bilbao to load, the ship ran ashore 
on the Spanish coast in very dirty weather, and 
for some time looked like becoming a total wreck. 

The chief engineer could not have known it at 
the time, but this happening was destined to 
become one of his early chances. He was largely 
responsible for refloating the vessel and for taking 
her into Bilbao dry dock. She was patched up 
there, and it was then that the great opportunity 
came. He was asked if he would attempt to run 
the steamer to Messrs. Palmer's ship repairing 


works on the Tyne. It was a risky job, for the 
ship was badly damaged, and there was no cer- 
tainty that the patched plates would hold. But 
that was the period of his life when the engineer 
was a whole-souled believer in the " nothing ven- 
ture, nothing win " policy. He consented to make 
the attempt, and after many weary and trying 
days got his charge to the Tyne. But not before 
the unfortunate " Gwenllian Thomas " had again 
made the acquaintance of dry land. In the 
English Channel the captain ran her high and 
dry on the Banks during a moderate gale. She 
floated with the next tide, but on arrival in port 
the captain " floated " too. 

By then the young Cornishman had obtained a 
First Class, or Chief Engineer's Certificate, which 
entitled him to take charge of any steamer afloat. 
He was handsomely rewarded by the owners and 
underwriters of the " Gwenllian Thomas," and 
was further recompensed by the owners by being 
given the chief engineer's berth on six successive 
steamers. In all he was with the firm of Messrs. 
Evan Thomas, Radcliffe & Co. for something like 
ten years. To show their complete satisfaction 
they made a definite promise, in 1889, that when 
they found it necessary to engage an Assistant 
Superintendent, he should have the first re- 

Before he was thirty Edward Nicholl was hold- 
ing a commission in the Royal Naval Reserve. 


He was one of about thirty engineers so distin- 
guished, and, naturally, he had come to the con- 
clusion that he was thoroughly capable of holding 
any superintendent's job. The promise of the 
firm he had served so faithfully and well was to 
mark another milestone in his career. 

In 1893, whilst chief engineer of the s.s. " Llan- 
beris," he landed in New York, to find awaiting 
him a letter from his owners, but signed by a 
new superintendent ! That day, as he admits, was 
one of the most unhappy and uncomfortable of 
his life. Without waste of time he despatched a 
letter to the owners informing them that they 
had either forgotten their promise or, through 
circumstances over which they had no control 
(for investments then, as now, went a long way 
in obtaining positions in shipping firms), had been 
forced to appoint another superintendent. He 
concluded his letter by resigning, the resignation 
to take effect when the vessel arrived at a 
" home " port. 

On the way over the engineer gave almost as 
much time to his thoughts as he did to his 
engines. South Africa thanks mainly to the 
late Cecil Rhodes was booming at the time, and 
his imagination being captured he felt, in addi- 
tion, that he had been done out of a job that had 
been definitely promised him he decided to go 
to the Cape. At Cardiff, however, he found this 
letter : 



22nd Aug., 1893. 

I have your letter, and nothing would give 
me greater pleasure than to give you the best 
testimonials, but I also desire that you should not 
go to South Africa, as it were, on an unsatisfactory 
errand, and I shall be glad if you would kindly 
run down to see me to-morrow to tell me your 
prospects and intentions, and possibly I might be 
able to suggest something that might be to your 

Yours faithfully, 


The interview was a thoroughly pleasant one, 
and it resulted in the chief engineer being offered 
50 per annum retaining fee. He was further 
promised half the firm's outside surveys (all of 
which, at that time, were being done by Messrs. 
J. Hallett & Co.), whilst he was allowed to engage 
in any other business he liked. It was an ex- 
cellent chance, but it was made all the better by 
the offer of a room in the offices of Messrs. Evan 
Thomas, Radcliffe & Company. 

" Fortunes are made in South Wales as well as 
South Africa," remarked Mr. Radcliffe as he shook 
hands with his engineer. That happens to be one 
of the truest remarks ever made. 

On August 23rd, 1893, Edward Nicholl, ex- 
telegraph messenger, ex-drummer-boy, ex-appren- 


tice, ex- chief engineer, started out towards a new 
career as Assistant Superintendent and Consulting 
Engineer, Nautical Expert, Member of the Insti- 
tute of Naval Architects, Member of the Institute 
of Marine Engineers, Engineer Royal Reserve, 
etc. etc. etc. He had an imposing list of " addi- 
tional remarks " to print on his cards, but all he 
had by way of finance was an assured income of 
50 per year and less than 200 in ready cash. 

It wasn't too easy in those days to rattle one 
penny against the other. But the ex-messenger, 
etc., was his own man. There were clouds around 
in plenty, but he refused to see them. 

He looked instead at the sunshine. It must 
have been then that he picked up the habit. 


Every man who can be a first-rate something as every 
man can be who is a man at all has no right to be a fifth- 
rate something ; for a fifth-rate something is no better than 
a first-rate nothing. HOLLAND. 

A WEEK or so after his satisfactory inter- 
view with Mr. Hy. Radcliffe, Edward 
Nicholl was approached by a young gentleman 
named Brown. He had a proposition to make. 
It was this : For 50 down and another 50 in 
six months the nautical expert who was willing 
and anxious to do any man's job was offered a 
partnership in a firm whose speciality was 
agencies. It looked like a good thing, and down 
went the 50. The document drawn up was, in 
part, as follows : 

Partnership started under the title of Brown & 
Nicholl, Newport and Cardiff, agents for Petro- 
leum Engines, Rope and Oil Merchants, Com- 
mission agents, Insurance brokers, Consulting 
Engineers, House and Insurance Agents, etc. etc. 
etc. . . . 

Things, however, did not turn out quite as 
satisfactorily as the new partner had hoped. As 
a matter of fact, the arrangement came to an end 
in less than a month. Many things happened in 



that time, including a very hectic scene in a South 
Wales office. It was the partner known as Nicholl 
who did most of the talking ; the other, known 
as Brown, did almost all the listening. 

In the months that followed, in addition to 
attending to his two offices one at Cardiff and 
one at Newport Edward Nicholl made many 
surveys for Messrs. Evan Thomas, Radcliffe & Co. 
Various insurances, too, were bringing in some 
money. He apparently thought a day ill-spent 
when he did not tell some man or other of the 
uncertainty of life. He invariably finished up by 
extolling the virtues of Life Insurance, and of his 
own office in particular. Much of his Life In- 
surance work was done in the evenings. But he 
was very wary of people who came to him with 
glib tales of possible partnerships. Many did, 
but he always cut short the conversation by try- 
ing to sell them something. He was an agent for 
everything ; his was the " pushful agency " in 
excelsis. At the end of six months he presented 
himself with the following balance-sheet : 

Received from agencies . 107 10 6 
Retaining fee from 

Radcliffes . 25 0(6mths.) 

Total . 132 18 6 

It wasn't a large income, even for the glorious 
days before the war, but he made it do. Troubles 
and trials came in battalions at this period, but 



they only served to induce the man who was 
fighting a lone hand to keep an even stiffer upper 
lip. But there were moments, especially when he 
glanced at his balance-sheet, when he must have 
felt a little depressed. It read as follows : 




Messrs. Laurie & Co. 
Messrs. Partridge, Jones & Co. 
Messrs. Lace, Wills & Co. 
Newport Engineering Co. 
Messrs. Sherman & Co. 
Messrs. John & Co. 
Newport Alexandra Dock 
Messrs. Thomas Bros. 
Cardiff Pontoon Co. 
Staines Linoleum Co. 
Oakhill Brewery 
Patent Nut & Bolt Co. 
Russian Yacht 
Tyne Dock Co. 
C. H. Bailey, Esq. 
C. H. Bailey, Esq. 
Newport Rubber & Waste Co. 
Messrs. Mordey, Jones & Co. 
A. H. Oliver, Esq. 


Survey, s.s. " Clieveden " .... 2 
Certificate, s.s. " Clieveden " . . . .2 
Attending to " Anne Thomas " . . .1 

Certificate, " Anne Thomas " . . . .1 
Attending to " lolo Morganwg " . . .1 
Attending to " Wywstay " . . . .1 
Attending to " Llanberis " . . . .1 
Attending to " Bala " and " Kate Thomas " .1 






2 9 


2 5 

Barry Dock 

1 7 



2 9 


1 10 

Barry Dock 

1 5 


2 9 


2 5 


1 15 


1 12 




2 8 


2 9 


1 8 



Barry Dock 







s. d. 



Standard Pulleys, Thompson & Hawks 

Veranda Order for South Africa 

Caligraph Repairs and Paper, Jones & Algie 

2 12 

1 1 

48 11 6 

10 16 6 


Sum Assured. 


Date oj Payment. 



























8. d. s. d. 

10 6 



14 6 

14 6 

10 6 



3 18 6 

67 10 6 
Life Insurance Business, 4000 in sums assured 

for the six months . .... 40 

Total 107 10 6 

On the llth of January, 1894, a trifle discon- 
solate, very worn, suffering from a hideous head- 
ache, and for the first time in his life on the verge 
of throwing up the sponge a number of broken 
promises had made things look very black indeed 
he journeyed to Cardiff. To use a present-day 
expression, he was " fed to the teeth." He had 
reason to be, for the sunshine on which he had 
banked to such an extent had so completely dis- 
appeared that it could no longer be seen. 

It was an incidental remark from his typist 
that roused him from his gloom. A young gentle- 
man had made two calls at the office, and had 
mentioned on each occasion that Mr. Radcliffe 
was most anxious to see Mr. Nicholl. Mr. Nicholl 
naturally wasted no time in visiting Mr. Rad- 
cliffe. The latter received him in genial fashion. 
He had a fairy-like story to tell. The night 



To face page 26 





9 AUG1926 








before, on his way home from church, he had 
encountered a certain Mr. Henry Jones. This 
Mr. Jones not only had three steamers, but in- 
tended building more. His great trouble was, 
however, that he had no superintendent. The 
firm itself had no practical experience of ship- 
ping ; one partner had spent part of his life in 
America and had been through the Civil War ; 
whilst the other, a brother, had given most of his 
time to soldiering in India. 

" I thought of you at once," said Mr. Radcliffe, 
" and of course I mentioned your name. I told 
Mr. Jones you were certain to get on. But I 
added that before anyone could get into a good 
berth it was necessary for him to come ashore 
and get the coal dust off his clothes. Now, does 
it interest you ? If so, I'll take you over to 
Jones' office, introduce you, and speak a word on 
your behalf. We may want you ourselves in a 
while, but if you can come to terms with Jones 
I advise you to do so." 

Sir Edward forgets what he said or did on that 
momentous morning in 1894, but it is permissible 
to suppose that he prefaced his introduction to 
Mr. Jones by giving three of the loudest cheers 
on record. It has to be remembered that he was 
on the point of throwing up the sponge ; and 
then, like a bolt from the blue, came the very 
kind of job he had always hungered for. He got 
it without trouble, at 250 per annum, with a 


promise of 50 with each new steamer. Mr. 
Radcliffe's reply when he heard all about it was 
as follows : 


11th January, 1894. 

30, West Bute Street, Cardiff. 


I am in receipt of your memo., and am 
pleased to note that you have been engaged by 
my old and esteemed friends, Messrs. Jones. I am 
sure you will do your best for them, and I am very 
glad that the result that I most desired has come 
about. Of course, I could not have hoped that 
it would have been attained so early. 

Wishing you every success in your new position, 
Yours faithfully, 


The remainder of the story is, again, best told 
in Sir Edward's own words : 

After I had come to a satisfactory arrangement 
and had signed an agreement with Messrs. Jones, 
I was asked how long it would take me to wind 
up my own business. I said about three months. 
I did not want them to know that what they had 
described as my business had in reality been a 
most unhappy and doubtful struggle. I there- 
upon went back to my office, wrote to the various 
agencies, notified the insurance company of what 
I had done, found employment for the three girls 


I employed, sold the goodwill I asked a man for 
100 and received 10 called a cab, and took 
home the chairs, linoleum, and table. Then, 
without loss of time, I started out to do my first 
work for my new firm. 

I was given an office of my own, and I dis- 
covered that, as the Consulting Engineer and 
Marine Superintendent, I was in sole charge of 
repairs, victualling, stores, wages, bunkers, and 
building. I had plenty to do, but, with a brighter 
outlook, I went at my task with considerable 
pleasure. I first dealt with details. I carefully 
examined the statistics which were put before me, 
found many wasteful loopholes, and at the end 
of twelve months I showed a saving, as compared 
with previous management, of over 2000 on the 
three steamers then being operated. I was re- 
warded with a present of 50, and 50 rise in 

It was just after this that I discovered that I 
was of an inventive turn of mind. I patented a 
contrivance which I called a " Movable Grain 
Division for the Carriage of Grain Cargoes," and 
another thing I thought of was a tramway life- 
saving appliance. I spent a lot of time on this 
latter, and I might have made money out of it 
but for the fact that a man in America patented 
a similar invention at about the time that I was 
making an application to patent mine. 

Later still I became a member of the Mining 
Institute, and the first paper I read was to an 
audience made up of engineering students. Then, 
a year or so after I joined the firm of Messrs. 


W. & C. T. Jones, I saw an advertisement for a 
Superintendent and Consulting Engineer to one 
of the largest passenger and shipping firms in the 
United Kingdom. I applied for the position and 
was asked, with two others, to present myself for 
a personal interview. On hearing of this my firm 
offered me 400 and a further 50 rise with each 
new steamer to remain with them, and I accepted, 
only to find later that I had been selected for the 
post advertised at 1000 per annum. One of the 
letters I received at this time was from Messrs. 
Evan Thomas, Radcliffe & Co. It was as fol- 
lows : 

"As we understand you are applying for an 
important position, it is with the greatest plea- 
sure that we testify to the satisfactory manner 
in which you discharged your duties while in 
our employ for a period of eleven years as Chief 
Engineer of many of our steamers, and latterly 
as Assistant Superintendent Engineer. You 
are particularly energetic, intelligent, and 
scholarly indeed, we think we should be cor- 
rect in stating that you are the best scholar we 
have had in our employ. We feel sure that if 
you secure the appointment your employers 
will have every reason to be satisfied with the 
way in which you are able to discharge your 

By then I had become very interested in pre- 
paring lectures for students. I made it a rule to 
deliver at least three every winter to those who 
were studying at the College and Institute of 


Marine Engineers. At first my subjects were 
engineering, but after a while I also delivered 
lectures on aircraft. I did this for six years. 
Meanwhile I made many trips abroad. I had an 
adventure with Tewfika Bey at Constantinople, 
I encountered an earthquake at the same place, 
when over four thousand lives were lost ; I was 
in one of the most violent hailstorms ever ex- 
perienced in Vienna ; and I again visited Con- 
stantinople to raise and repair the s.s. " Charles 
T. Jones," and was once more complimented by 
my owners and the underwriters. 

By 1903 I had superintended the building of 
about nine or ten steamers for the firm, and I was 
then in receipt of a very good salary. Feeling a 
little tired, I went on a short holiday to Cornwall. 
There I met Sir Richard Tangye. I recollect that 
our conversation turned to shipping, and I still 
remember his final remark. " Why not start for 
yourself ? " he said. " You would do well." I 
believe that my answer was that I had no capital. 

Here we reach the most interesting stage in 
Sir Edward's career. It is more than a milestone ; 
it is a turning-point. He was, at least, at the 
parting of the ways after his conversation with 
Sir Richard Tangye. A casual meeting in a rail- 
way carriage with a man who found himself 
without sufficient money to buy a paper did the 
rest. It may be said, with truth and without the 
least intention of being humorous that one man 
in the world became a shipowner for fourpence ! 


In life there are meetings which seem 
Like a fate. 


IN the late summer of 1903, after his hurried 
trip to Cornwall, Edward Nicholl found it 
necessary to make a journey to the Continent. 
It was his custom to travel first-class, even in 
those days. Had he been content with a corner 
seat in a third smoker, it is possible that he would 
still be a Superintendent and Consulting Engineer 
at Cardiff. When the train arrived at Bath a 
footman opened the door of the carriage and de- 
posited a bag in one of the corners. Later a 
gentleman, considerably out of breath, fell into 
the train just as the guard blew his whistle. He 
rushed to the window, shouted to a newsboy, and 
then discovered, to his obvious annoyance, that 
he had no money. One of his travelling com- 
panions immediately offered some, the papers 
were bought, and the incident ended, for the 
moment, with this remark from the penniless 
newcomer : " Thanks very much. I owe you 

It is conceivable that the distance to London 



might have been covered without another single 
word being spoken. It is the English way, 
especially in first-class compartments. But there 
was a clergyman in the carriage who strongly 
objected to smoking. The man who had nearly 
missed his train badly wanted a cigar, and so did 
the man who had lent him money. Finally, after 
a little argument, the clergyman, who detested 
the smell of smoke, left his seat and bounced into 
another compartment. And so the floodgates of 
conversation between the man who hadn't any 
money and the man who had were opened. 
Floodgates of this kind are easily opened when 
an attempt is made to thwart two men who want 
to smoke. 

The topics of the day were first discussed. Then 
the engineer was surprised by his companion tell- 
ing him that he was " one of the unfortunate 
people who wore a coronet." He mentioned no 
name merely said he was a peer of the realm, 
and added the further information that he was 
bound for the Mediterranean on a yachting trip. 
The engineer replied to this by saying that he was 
on the way to Rotterdam on some business con- 
nected with a steamer. 

That brought the talk around to shipping. He 
who had just managed to catch the train re- 
marked that, although his interests in shipping 
were slight, he yet had some shares in Messrs. 
Annings, a Cardiff shipping firm. Did his fellow- 


traveller know the firm ? His fellow-traveller 
did ; and, what was more, spoke very highly of 
the firm, and added that he was thinking very 
seriously of starting business on his own account 
at an early date. 

" Then why not do so at once ? " said his lord- 
ship. ' You look like the kind of man who would 
do well. Let me know when you make up your 
mind and I'll try and help you, if I can." 

When Paddington was reached the engineer 
offered to advance some more money. The peer, 
however, stated that his carriage was waiting and 
that he was in no need of money, as he would 
soon be at his club. He did, however, ask his 
new acquaintance for his card. All that the 
engineer was certain about as he left the station 
was that he had been in conversation with a 
nobleman whose name he did not know. He had 
handed over his card, but his lordship had not 
followed suit. 

Let Sir Edward continue the story : 

I was away some weeks, but the moment I re- 
turned to Cardiff, being very anxious to know 
who my peer friend was, I sought out one of 
Messrs. Anning's clerks, put a point-blank ques- 
tion to him, and was informed that the share- 
holder peer was Lord de Blaquiere, of The 
Cowans, Bath. An hour or so later, while talking 
to my employers' sons, I was, as usual, asked if 
I had had any exciting adventures on my trip. 


I casually mentioned that I had travelled to 
London with my friend Lord de Blaquiere. My 
word was apparently doubted, and I thereupon 
related part of the incident. I said I was so very 
friendly with Lord de Blaquiere that I lent him 
money. The elder of the two then said I well 
remember his remark : 

" Why, if you have so many influential and 
wealthy friends, do you not start in business for 
yourself ? " 

I replied that but for the kindness of their 
respective fathers, and the additional fact that 
they had no one but myself to look after 
their ten steamers, I would have done so long 

This perfectly jocular remark was duly re- 
ported at head-quarters during the week-end, and 
on the Monday morning the senior partner came 
into my office and, very nicely and tactfully, ex- 
pressed the hope that I was quite satisfied with 
my position. I told him, quite honestly, that I 
was. He then astonished me by saying he had 
been informed that I was friendly with Lord de 
Blaquiere, and that he had been rather expect- 
ing to hear that I was contemplating starting on 
my own account. He wanted to know if I was 
very friendly with Lord de Blaquiere. My reply 
was : " Yes, fairly. He has promised to help me 
when I do start on my own." 

" Really," said Mr. Jones, " you are very for- 
tunate in your friends. Is it true that you also 
know Sir Richard Tangye ? " 

" Quite," I replied. " I know him very well." 


Then Mr. Jones put a question which hit me so 
hard that it nearly knocked me down. It was 
thoroughly unexpected. " How much money do 
you think you could command from your friends 
if you do start ? " he asked. 

I hadn't the remotest notion. Truth to tell, 
the point had not even occurred to me. But I 
replied : " Oh ! about 10,000, I think, sir." 

" In that case," said Mr. Jones, " you would 
be very unwise not to start on your own account. 
We started on much less." 

" Really," I remarked, for the want of some- 
thing else to say. 

" I am telling you the truth," continued Mr. 
Jones. " Now, let me explain what we are pre- 
pared to do. If you care to start a ship, or ships, 
we shall be pleased to help you. We will invest 
1000 in each steamer, and further, we will do all 
your clerical work free of charge in this office, and 
you can call on all our shareholders to help you. 
But there is one condition." 

" And what is that ? " I asked. 

" That you sign an agreement not to leave us 
for at least five years," answered Mr. Jones. 
" We will guarantee that your salary will never 
be less than it is at present. All we really ask is 
that you devote whatever time you have to our 
ships. Your own ships will come first, of course, 
and you shall have an assistant." 

I could have danced a jig right there and then. 
Could anything have been finer, from my point 
of view ? I readily consented to sign the agree- 
ment, and it was drawn up on the same afternoon 


(July 17th, 1903). It came to my mind as I 
attached my name to the document that the loan 
of fourpence to a peer, a clergyman who hated 
smoking, and a casual remark to my employers' 
sons had all conspired to make me a shipowner. 
Years after, when I met Lord and Lady de 
Blaquiere at Brighton, I interested them im- 
mensely by telling them that but for the fact that 
I had once lent his Lordship fourpence I would 
probably never have become a shipowner. 

It was not until after I had signed the agree- 
ment that I realised that I was up against it with 
a vengeance. It was easy enough talking about 
commanding 10,000 from my friends, but it soon 
dawned on me that I was probably in for a very 
difficult time. The first letter I wrote was to 
Lord de Blaquiere. He did not reply. Then I 
wrote to Sir Richard Tangye. He answered that 
he was not interested in shipping investments 
and was too old to do as I asked. 

I was not disconcerted by these happenings, 
however. In fact, my determination to go 
through with the thing to the end received a 
fresh impetus. I decided to take a trip around 
the country to spy out the land, so to speak. 

The first man I saw listened very attentively 
to all I had to say, but he thoroughly wet- 
blanketed my hopes by explaining that, but for 
the fact that he had recently invested 10,000 in 
Consols (then about 113), he would have put in 
a similar amount with me. I cursed Consols 
roundly. I think I had every right to. Then I 
played one of my trump cards, 



" I particularly want your interest, sir," I said. 
14 It is my intention to name the first steamer the 
1 Whateley Hall,' after your house. In addition, 
I shall name any other steamers after the famous 
halls of the country." 

That interested him. 

" Yes," he said, after a little hesitation. " I 
certainly like the idea of that, and I'll admit 
I have faith in you. On second thoughts, I am in- 
clined to come in with you to the extent of 3000." 

" Thank you, sir," I replied. " You are very 
good. I shall leave Birmingham a happy man. 
May I take it that you will give me the cheque 
now ? " 

" I am afraid I can't do that," was the answer. 
" I have my cheque-book here, but my clerk has 
gone, and I really don't know where to find a pen. 
But I'll post the cheque to you first thing on 

" Excuse me one moment," I exclaimed as I 
dashed out of the room. I had noticed a small 
office at the bottom of the stairs. I rushed in, 
borrowed pen and ink, ran upstairs again, and 
walked away with the cheque in my pocket. But 
I have never been without a filled fountain-pen 
since that day. 

My capital then consisted of the house I lived 
in, about 1500 saved, and a cheque for 3000. 
The house soon found its way into the strong 
room of the bank not literally, of course and 
everything else I possessed, including the dog 
kennel, became the property of the London, City, 
and Midland Bank. 


Just about this time it was reported to me that 
a London firm, Messrs. Dillon, had a steamer for 
sale, second-hand. Through the Cardiff agent I 
was offered the boat for 26,000. I went to 
London to buy, if possible, or to discover the best 
selling terms, but to my consternation Messrs. 
Dillon repudiated their agent and said their price 
was 28,000, and not 26,000. The deal, as a 
result, did not materialise. 

Very shortly after Sir Edward became inter- 
ested in " turret " ships, which were then creating 
something of a sensation in shipping circles. 
Money, it should be mentioned, was coming in 
rapidly as the result of the circulars he had sent 
out to likely shareholders. 

For the benefit of the uninitiated, it may be 
said that the turret was not exactly a new idea 
rather was it one modernised. The first ship 
fitted with a turret was the American Federal 
vessel " Monitor," which was built after Eric- 
sson's plans in 1862. The first British boat to be 
fitted with a turret was the " Royal Sovereign " 
in 1862-64. But these were war vessels, and to 
fit freight-carrying ships with turrets was not 
attempted until a very much later date until, 
indeed, turrets went out of fashion and were 
superseded by barbettes. In more recent years, 
particularly in America, turrets were much 
favoured, and there are instances on record of 
ships being fitted with one turret above another, 
each revolving independently. 

The reintroduction of the turret for that is 
what it was swiftly captured the imagination of 
the new shipowner. Quite by chance he was 
approached by Messrs. Doxfords, of Sunderland, 
and asked by them to go in for one of their new 
design ships. They could not have chosen a more 
appropriate moment. The new shipowner's head 
was ringing with the word " turret " ; he saw 
possibilities in them, and within a week he was 
on his way to Newcastle. 

But he had developed canniness by that time. 
He saw Messrs. Doxfords, asked for an estimate 
for a 6000-ton steamer, and followed up by inter- 
viewing the representatives of twelve other firms. 
Messrs. Doxfords, however, happened to be the 
lowest tender, and it was accepted. They con- 
tracted to build a steamer of 6400 tons dead 
weight, to be delivered in eight months. One 
thousand pounds was to be paid down, 9000 on 
delivery, the remainder to be paid as quickly as 
possible, over a period of five years 4J per cent 
on unpaid balances after the steamer's delivery, 
etc. the builders to repay 5 per cent interest to 
the owner on all amounts paid before delivery. 
In addition to buying one vessel the new owner 
took an option on an additional four, the said 
option to be good for three years. The full pur- 
chase price for each steamer was 34,000. 

It is anticipating the end a little, but it may be 
mentioned that within a very short time the now 


rising shipowner had bought all four steamers, 
had contracted for four more, and had incident- 
ally bought two second-hand vessels. In addition 
he had sold two on the stocks, and had made his 
first big deal of 4000 by cancelling two orders 
at the request of Norwegian buyers. Another sale 
of two more within a year, for a like amount, made 
him the possessor of over 10,000, all of which was 
invested in his own vessels. 

Opportunity had knocked at the door, but it 
had most certainly been answered. 


Men who undertake considerable things, even in a regular 
way, ought to give us ground to presume ability. BURKE. 

IT was when his income was more than that of 
either of his employers, or of that of their 
sons put together, that Edward Nicholl had his 
first disagreement with the firm he had served so 
faithfully and well. The trouble was not of his 
making. He had been too successful, and the 
office, as a consequence, was not the most plea- 
sant place to live in. One of the partners had died 
and the other, Mr. William Jones whom Sir 
Edward speaks of as one of the best and one of 
the kindest employers in the world was by no 
means well, and only infrequently turned up at 
the business. The rupture came very suddenly, 
as these things have a habit of doing. The new 
shipowner was in his room attending to his 
duties, when a clerk entered to say that the 
youngest son had issued instructions that he was 
to proceed to Newcastle at once. 

There were a variety of reasons why the journey 
could not be undertaken that day, one of them 
being that the engineer-shipowner had two 
steamers of his own in dry dock at Cardiff. The 



9 AUG. 1926 


upshot of it all was that there were a few heated 
words, and Edward Nicholl packed up and took 
offices elsewhere. 

About this time the early months of 1906 
he was busy championing the cause of the British 
seaman. It had been said by those who wanted 
to excuse themselves that British sailors were 
hard to find. Aliens, according to their view, 
were a necessity. The director and manager of 
the Cardiff " Hall " Line which was the name 
of Edward Nicholl's firm exploded this theory 
in an interview which was printed in the "Western 

" By giving twenty-four hours' notice," he 
said, " to the Board of Trade officials, and post- 
ing the notice at the Cardiff offices of the Board 
of Trade, I have never yet had any difficulty in 
obtaining an all-British crew. I would strongly 
advocate that we should be compelled to carry 
75 per cent Britishers for our national safety. 
That would give our commerce a security 
which it does not possess at present, and I 
maintain it can be done if a sufficient induce- 
ment is held out to tempt men to join the 
Mercantile Marine by paying them an equiva- 
lent of what they would get for shore labour. 
Those people who point to the fact that years 
ago the wages of sailors ranged from 2 10s. to 
3 per month should not forget that the cost 
of living has advanced, that education has be- 
come compulsory, and so forth. The modern 


seaman should be paid at least enough to keep 
a wife and family respectably. How can that 
be done on 3 5s. to 3 10s. per month ? A 
self-respecting Britisher would rather beg or 
starve than go to sea under such conditions. 
The shareholders of shipping companies might 
take up the matter, and instruct the managers 
of their property to give preference to 
Britishers ; whilst underwriters also, to safe- 
guard their own interests, might insist on the 
employment of a large percentage of Brit- 

" The problem is not an insoluble one. I 
have already urged the payment of a better 
wage. This would be greatly facilitated if the 
nation itself did something. Let us penalise 
every foreign vessel entering a United Kingdom 
port to the same extent and as vigorously as is 
done with the British steamer ; let us fix the 
load-line, cargo, storage, measurement, cer- 
tificate dues, etc., regulate the lights, boats, 
belts, buoys, and generally, where existing 
legislation handicaps the Britisher, treat the 
alien similarly, and let us have a new light load- 
line law. The alien not only takes our cargoes 
at the same rate of freight as we can obtain, 
but even trades around our coasts under a 
foreign flag and escapes practically all these 
restrictions affecting British ships. Let these 
obstacles to our progress and commerce be 
removed, and it will then be found that 
British owners can and will employ more 


Sir Edward to-day is as much an advocate of 
the British sailor as he was when he was a ship- 
owner in 1906. Most of his words, written many 
years ago, have a ring of truth to-day. In the 
same issue of the " Western Mail " he also had a 
kindly word to say about apprentices. That was 
followed, some time later, by a shipping journal 
publishing the following : 

The commercial supremacy of Great Britain 
will be maintained so long as we have among 
our captains of commerce men who take a 
practical interest in the technical education of 
our country. Cardiff is indeed fortunate in 
possessing one of these public-spirited men in 
the person of Councillor Edward Nicholl, 
R.N.R., the Managing Director of the Cardiff 
" Hall " Line of steamers, which are so well 
known throughout the shipping world, and are 
considered the most economical steamers afloat, 
each company averaging to date about 20 per 
cent per annum interest on its capital. 

The success of the Cardiff " Hall " Line of 
steamers must be attributed to Councillor 
Nicholl's wide technical knowledge and prac- 
tical experience, for he was trained as an 
engineer and was for several years at sea in the 
highest position of his profession. He is also 
the author of several engineering papers, and is 
regarded as an authority on all nautical sub- 

To encourage the apprentices of our city to 
become equipped at the outset of their profes- 


sional careers with a first-class technical educa- 
tion, Councillor Nicholl has generously founded 
the " Councillor NicholPs prizes," amounting 
to 25 annually, to be given to the meritorious 
students of the City of Cardiff Technical Schools 
in the following subjects : Practical geometry, 
machine drawing, theoretical and practical 
mathematics, theoretical mechanics, mechani- 
cal engineering, electricity and magnetism, and 
electrical engineering. 

But that, perhaps, is travelling a little ahead of 
the story. Lots of things had happened before 
these prizes were founded, but no occurrence was 
anything like so extraordinary as the rapid pro- 
gress of the Cardiff " Hall" Line. Away back in 
the dim past of 1906 January 12th of that year, 
to be precise the "Maritime Review" was 
saying : 

Elsewhere in these columns we have com- 
mented on the commercial activity of Mr. 
Edward Nicholl, but through lack of space our 
remarks had to be curtailed, somewhat dis- 
appointingly. Just here no such reasons apply, 
and, being in reminiscent mood, we shall pursue 
the subject a little further. That is to say, we 
are looking back over the work of a hundred 
weeks in the history of this journal its first 
hundred weeks, too ; and that is a period that 
leaves its mark, providing any mark is to be 

Exactly the same thing applies with the 


individual, and in our retrospective glance we 
note that in our very first issue we published 
our opinions of the man who, first among 
Cardiff shipowners, backed his belief in the 
possibilities of the big dividends that are to be 
earned by those who work the turret steamers. 
. . . Now, when Mr. Nicholl first essayed his 
trial of the turret if we may put it thus it 
was when this type of steamer was busily en- 
gaged in fighting down the antagonism of the 
old school of ship-managers ; when sections of 
the alleged " Shipping Press " were waxing 
sarcastic when one of the type had come to 
grief, were posing as wits because somebody or 
other had prattled to them of the similarity 
between half-tide rocks and turret steamers ; 
when quite a number of the " fancy " were 
walking around with a non-committal look 
spread over their expressive countenances ; at 
that time then, we, as sailormen, and Mr. Nicholl 
as a shipowning expert, declared our beliefs in 
the possibility of the " new ship. . . ." 

The result ? Well, most of our older con- 
temporaries have not been above shaping their 
theoretical courses from the wrinkles gained by 
our practical experience. That is the result as 
far as journalism is concerned. Where the 
shipping investor came in we shall show you 
later on. . . . 

As you will have observed, the pooh-poohing 
referred to had no effect on us neither had it 
on Mr. Nicholl. . . . The head of the Cardiff 
" Hall " Line has succeeded in a most phe- 


nomenal manner ; in the same direction we 
have cause for no complaint. Why is this ? 
Well, we leave the reasgns, which crystallise 
around ourselves, to you ; but on yet another 
red-letter day in our career we are willing to 
state that Mr. Nicholl has succeeded because 
he knows his business ; has used no meretri- 
cious aids to win success ; has appealed to his 
supporters in a clean and straightforward 
manner ; has fulfilled his promises ; and has 
therefore deserved although he never pre- 
tended that he could command success. 

In this connection we quite realise that 
several of the older established owners claim 
that they " thought " about the possibilities 
of the turret steamer before Mr. Nicholl came 
on the scene. They did, in point of fact ! But 
while they were thinking, our friend acted ; 
and, gloss over the idea as you might, could, 
would, or should, the fact remains that he was 
leader in this new break at Cardiff. For the 
matter of that he is still leading, will probably 
go on leading ; has shown by actual result that 
his belief in the advantages of the turret 
steamer was justified ; the older hands have 
been " getting over each other " in a mad 
desire to do likewise. . . . 

To-day, more than at any other epoch in the 
history of the shipping industry, the successful 
ship manager is he who plays the game. There 
must be no shinnannakin ; no attempt at con- 
cealment ; no tarradiddles ; no undue reap- 
pearance of new tail-end shafts in the balance- 


sheets ; and no terribly frequent regrets for the 
non-appearance of dividend cheques when 
other competitors under the same or less 
favourable conditions are " sending 'em out 
at the end of each voyage." That is mainly 
why Mr. Nicholl has succeeded. He has made 
no promises that have not been fulfilled. As a 
matter of fact, he had understated his ability, 
and his supporters are the better pleased in 
consequence. . . . The really successful ship- 
owner, then, is he who is hardest to " draw." 
He appears to be too busy to give you a word. 
He lives as nearly altogether on dividends and 
their earning as makes but little difference. 
Mr. Nicholl is of that persuasion. 

" Could we have a photo of one of the 
' Hall ' boats ? " " Certainly, with pleasure. 
I'll ask the photographer to send you one." It 
came so did the photo of himself. Next, we 
asked for a few points that would be of interest 
to our readers. A deprecatory shrug of the 
shoulders, and a " You already know all there 
is to know " is supposed to meet the case. Our 
next attempt is to secure some figures ; and we 
are given the post-card which this original ship 
manager sends to all his shareholders, month 
by month. Its tale is exactly that which you 
will prefer, for it treats of dividends. Indeed, 
we cannot do better than reproduce it here- 
with, in which case you will be taking Mr. 
NicholPs words instead of ours. Here you 
are : 


s.s. " Whateley Hall." 
Voyage Nos. 1 to 5. 

From July 9th, 1904, to October 31st, 1905, 
total profit 6213 19s. 2d. Paid in dividends, 
2800. Carried to Reserve, 2337 7s. 9d. Since 
the steamer left the builders, and not for one 
isolated voyage, the profit is equal to 23 J per 
cent per annum. All dividends are free of 
income tax. 

s.s. " Eaton Hall." 
Voyage Nos. 1 to 6. 

From August 5th, 1904, to October 7th, 
1905 ; total profit, 6055 7s. 3d. Paid in divi- 
dends, 2900. Carried to Reserve, 2022 Os. lOd. 
Since the steamer left the builders, and not 
for one isolated voyage, the profit is equal to 
22 per cent per annum. All dividends are 
free from income tax. 

s.s. " Grindon Hall." 
Voyage No. 1. 

From September 26th, 1905, to November 
20th, 1905 56 days paid a dividend of 
l 10s. per 50 share, and the voyage left a 
profit equal to 30 per cent per annum. 

Our s.s. " Tredegar Hall," same size, same 
specification, price 34,000, includes all so- 
called " extras " and has been well applied for. 
Prospectus on application. We refused a profit 


of 3000 on this contract ; the shareholders get 
the full benefit of this. The shares in this 
steamer are now nearly all allotted. 

Is it necessary for us to extend the theme 
further than this ? We believe it is not, and 
we have merely taken up the work of this 
enterprising ship manager to justify our re- 
marks one hundred weeks ago. At that time 
some of our contemporaries couldn't see any 
promise in Mr. Nicholl, as he had no " past." 
We, as nautical people proper, could and did. 
This is our excuse for treating you to a dis- 
cussion on one of Cardiff's youngest and cer- 
tainly most phenomenally successful steamer 


The busy world shoves angrily aside 

The man who stands with arms akimbo set 

Until occasion tell him what to do ; 

And he who waits to have his task marked out 

Shall die and leave his errand unfulfilled. 


SO that this story may have some semblance 
of sequence it is now necessary to go back 
a few months. The first steamer of the " Hall " 
Line was known as the " Whateley Hall." She 
was a turret, of course. It is interesting to record 
that when the first of her kind was launched one 
South Wales journal, in most emphatic language, 
declared that " when the third wave strikes her 
broadside she will be no more." The " Whateley 
Hall " was the hundredth turret to be built and 
launched by Messrs. William Doxford & Sons, 
of Pallion, Sunderland. Edward Nicholl & Co., 
Cardiff, were the owners. 

The " Whateley Hall " was six times larger 
than the first of her class to be built, and she was 
the very first to be laid down to the order of a 
South Wales firm. Among those at the launch- 
ing ceremony were the Mayor and Mayoress of 
Sunderland (Councillor and Mrs. H. J. Turnbull), 



Mr. Jenneson Taylor (Chairman of the Wear 
Commission), Mr. and Mrs. Runciman, and Mr. 
Edward Nicholl. The ship was christened by 
Miss Knight, daughter of Mr. Frederick Knight, 
of Whateley Hall, Birmingham (from whom Sir 
Edward had received the first 3000). The lady 
was presented with a diamond bracelet, the gift 
of the owner; whilst Mrs. William Jones, of Cardiff, 
was also given a bracelet "Mrs. Jones being the 
wife of the gentleman for whom I have worked, 
and who has given me every assistance in starting 
for myself," as the owner gracefully phrased it. 

Although the " Whateley Hall " was by no 
means huge, she was at least made noteworthy 
by being the largest of her kind. She had a 
dead weight capacity of 6,400 tons, a draught of 
22 ft. 6 in., whilst her indicated horse-power was 
1350, which gave her a loaded speed at sea of nine 
to eleven knots an hour on a low consumption of 
coal. Her dimensions were 342 J ft. by 46 J ft. by 
27J ft. One point that deserves to be made is 
that the owner gave special instructions that 
attention was to be given to the accommodation 
and general comfort of the officers, engineers, and 
crew. Even bathrooms were provided, and it is 
no exaggeration to say that the men of the 
6 Whateley Hall " were better catered for than 
any other body of seamen then afloat. 

Her first voyage was to Port Said with coal, 
and from Nicholaieff to Rotterdam with maize, 


wheat, and barley. That it was a highly success- 
ful trip is best indicated by the balance-sheet sent 
out to the shareholders at the time. It will be 
found set-out on the following page. 

As the " Maritime Review " remarked on 
October 12th, 1904, the figures were remarkable. 
The dividend, as will be seen, worked out at a 
little better than 10 per cent, after paying in- 
terest on debentures and after putting away the 
useful sum of 168 9s. lid. for the redemption of 
debentures and reserve. It was no wonder that 
the shareholders walked about with smiling faces. 

But the dividend was not the only thing of 
interest. Before his ship sailed, the General 
Manager of Edward Nicholl & Co. made a valiant 
attempt to man her with Britishers. He caused 
to be posted up outside the Cardiff Shipping Office 
the following announcement : 

WANTED, twelve good British sailors and fire- 
men for the " Whateley Hall." Constant em- 
ployment for good men. Wages, 4 per month. 
R.N.R. men preferred. 

That was not only a step in the right direction, 
but it was one that made the shipping quarters 
of Cardiff positively buzz. Here is another para- 
graph from a South Wales paper which is well 
worth giving. It speaks for itself : - 

We are modest people at Cardiff, hence we 
are somewhat disinclined to shout about our 

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smartnesses. Sometimes, however, a record is 
made which, in common fairness, should be 
narrated. Here is one : " The ' Whateley Hall ' 
arrived in the Bute Docks on Friday last at 
10 a.m. She loaded 5250 tons of cargo, 1000 
tons of bunkers, and sailed for Venice at 9.30 
on the following morning (Saturday). When 
a steamer loads up 6350 tons and sails in less 
than twenty-four hours, one hardly knows 
which to congratulate most the Bute Docks 
people or the enterprising head of the Cardiff 
4 Hall ' Line, Mr. Edward Nicholl. Again and 
this is another record in the right direction 
the same ' Whateley Hall ' secured a full crew 
of British sailors and firemen, who were paid 
the full rate ruling at Cardiff for that class of 
desirable workmen. We are wondering whether 
this is an instance where the fates smile indul- 
gently on the man who has a sufficiency of 
4 whiteness ' to practise what some of his col- 
leagues merely preach Live and let live." 

The second " turret " to be launched was the 
44 Eaton Hall." She was christened by Miss 
Nellie Coward, daughter of Mr. P. H. Coward, of 
Cardiff, and by a curious chance her first voyage 
was identical with that of her sister ship. She 
carried coals to Port Said, and wheat, rye, barley, 
and oats from Nicholaieff to Rotterdam. She 
made a profit of 1133 2s. 8d., which allowed of a 
dividend being paid of nearly 14 per cent per 
annum, after payment in full of all expenses, in- 


surance, and fully providing for interest on de- 
bentures and redemption fund. 

But, lest it be thought that it was all plain 
sailing for Edward Nicholl & Co. at this time, it 
should be pointed out that the firm was made the 
target for a good deal of stinging and thoroughly 
unfair criticism. There was one paper in par- 
ticular which seemed to find real joy in throwing 
cold water on the efforts of the new firm. But it 
was the balance-sheets which spoke loudest. The 
shareholders were drawing excellent dividends, 
and naturally they could afford to laugh at the 
cheap sneers of those who in reality were annoyed 
because their prophecies had been made to look 

One of the secrets of success of the firm was 
that it possessed the knack of getting its cargoes 
discharged with express speed. The " Eaton 
Hall," for example, arrived in London one 
Wednesday afternoon at 4 o'clock. She dis- 
charged 5600 tons, left the Thames on Saturday 
afternoon, and was docked at Cardiff at 8 o'clock 
on the following Monday evening. This was the 
sort of thing that made other owners' mouths 
water. No wonder the profits were piled one on 
top of the other ; there was a " live wire " at 
the head of the business who saw that things were 

In three voyages the " Whateley Hall " made 
a profit of 4615. The profits on her third trip, 


which was to the Plate and back, yielded 3 for 
every 50 share. There was no other steamer in 
England at the time which could show a result 
anything like so satisfactory. The " Whateley 
Hall " managed to make herself noteworthy, too, 
by salving the Middlesborough steamer " Broad- 
garth " ; she had run aground in the Black Sea. 
In the Admiralty Court later Mr. Justice Barnes 
awarded the owners of the Cardiff vessel 1125, 
the master 175, and the crew 200. 

The third ship of the Line was the " Tredegar 
Hall," but by 1907 the firm were running no less 
than seven. They were as follows : 

s.s. " Whateley Hall." 

" Eaton Hall." 

" Tredegar Hall." 

" Welbeck Hall." 

" Grindon Hall." 

" Silksworth Hall." 

" Haigh Hall." 

Just prior to this, however, the head of the 
" Hall " Line had transferred part of his interest 
and attention to music-halls. He became inter- 
ested in the London Coliseum, which, after 
starting well, got into difficulties. Several meet- 
ings of the shareholders were held of which he 
was Chairman, and eventually he also became 
Chairman of the Reconstruction Committee. In 
addition, he was a Member of the Chamber of 





Commerce (and its Council), a member of the 
Shipowners' Association, Director of the "Hero" 
Metal Company, and President of the Cardiff 
Technical Engineering Society. Long before 
1907, when the "Hall" Line had so established 
itself that even critics had buried their pens, 
he was one of the busiest men in a city of busy 

In the summer of 1907 came the break with 
Messrs. Jones & Co. New offices were found at 
4, Dock Chambers, Cardiff, and within a week or 
so the " Welbeck Hall " was bought and the 
" Silksworth Hall " and the " Haigh Hall " con- 
tracted for. Sir Edward's own story of this 
period is full of interest : 

I severed my connection with Messrs. Jones 

through no fault of mine, I may say on July 
17th, 1907. . . . By the end of the year we had 
seven ships, over a quarter of a million capital, 
and a dead-weight carrying capacity of over 
44,000 tons. In addition, I had contracted for 
several more vessels. We experienced no diffi- 
culty at all in getting shareholders. On the other 
hand, we were sometimes embarrassed by the 
applications we received. It was an enviable 
position, but even so there happened about this 
time an incident worth recording. It brought me 
into conflict with my bank. 

I had heard that at Penarth Docks there was a 
steamer for sale. The owner or, at any rate, the 
largest shareholder had crossed over. I went 


and saw the vessel, and was so impressed with 
her generally good condition that I immediately 
sent a telegram asking to be informed of her price. 
The reply was : " Our Principal will be in town 
to-morrow, Hotel Victoria. Want 12,000." 

For some little time the London and Provincial 
Bank, through their manager, had been paying 
me little attentions, which perhaps is the way of 
banks when one is doing well. The manager had 
remarked to me on more than one occasion that 
if his bank could ever be of any service they 
would be most happy to oblige. I kept the offer 
in my mind. 

After seeing the vessel at Penarth I went to my 
own bank manager and told him I was on the 
point of buying a new ship. Would it be all 
right ? He replied : 

' Well, you know, shipping is not much 
favoured by our Directors at the moment, but 
as you are going to London to-morrow call at the 
head office and see Mr. Madders, the General 
Manager. I think it will be all right, but don't 
forget your overdraft is a bit on the heavy side 
as it is." 

My reply was : " Yes ; but keep in your mind 
that you are well covered. You have everything 
I possess." 

I saw Mr. Madders next day. It was just after 
lunch, and I was ushered into his office with great 

" Sit down, will you ? " he remarked. 

" No thanks," I answered, " I'm in a great 
hurry. I presume they have wired or spoken 


from Cardiff that I want to write a cheque for 
10,000 or 12,000 ? " 

" That is so." 

" Well, will it be all right ? " 

' Um ah ! This is such short notice, you 
know. But we have a Directors' Meeting on 
Friday. It is Wednesday to-day. Can you 
wait ? " 

" No, I'm afraid I can't. Besides, I'm very 
surprised that you want me to wait until Friday. 
I have to make up my mind before five o'clock 
to-day. You really surprise me. It is such a 
paltry sum." 

Mr. Madders smiled over at me. 

" You are cross to-day," he remarked. 

" I shall be in a minute," I answered. " Please 
remember that I have not come here begging. 
You will have ample security." 

By this time there were several clerks in the 
room, and it seemed to me that the General 
Manager was distinctly uncomfortable. I realised 
that it was up to me to indicate plainly that I 
wanted the money, so I said : 

4 You will drive me elsewhere if you are not 
careful. I know two places where I can get the 
money at once." 

" Where are you staying ? " asked Mr. Madders. 

" The Metropole," I replied. 

" Very well," he remarked. " I will ring you 
up before four o'clock and let you know." 

I returned to the Metropole Hotel just as the 
clock was striking four, and was told that Mr. 
Madders had been inquiring for me. I got him 


on the phone, and was then informed that he re- 
gretted very much that he could not give me a 
definite answer until after the Directors had met 
on the Friday. 

I walked straight across to the desk and wrote 
the following wire to the London & Provincial 
Bank, Cardiff : 

" Writing cheque on you for about 1000 de- 
posit, balance about 10,000. Home to-morrow, 
when I will transfer to you all accounts, my own 
and ships. NICHOLL." 

I carried out my intention, and then the fun 
began. The London City & Midland Bank did all 
in their power to get me back again, and one of 
the first things they told me was that anything 
reasonable that I asked would find them perfectly 
willing to meet me. 

And now let me digress for a moment. The 
point of the foregoing story is that some years 
later, at the luncheon at the Cannon Street Hotel, 
London, to celebrate the amalgamation of the 
" Joint " with the London City & Midland Bank, 
the late Sir Edward Holden, after the meeting, 
said : 

" Gentlemen, lunch is to be served in the ad- 
joining room. I want Sir Edward Nicholl to sit 
on my right, and Mr. McKenna on my left." 

During the lunch he asked me what were my 
intentions. I replied that I had not decided. He 
then exclaimed : 

' Well, my boy, if you do start again, and a 
million is of any use to you, you can always 
have it ! " 


It was much too good a chance to miss, and I 
reminded Sir Edward of the 10,000 incident. 
What he said then I think I had better keep to 

I may add that within three months of the 
transfer of my account to the London & Provin- 
cial Bank I was back again with the London City 
& Midland, with reasonably unlimited credit. 

It comes to my mind now that in October of 
1920, when I was discussing financial matters with 
Sir Edward, the question of overdrafts was raised. 
I think I asked him how far a man could go in 
that direction. 

" I assure you," said Sir Edward in reply, 
ic that at this moment my large interests in War 
Loans, Oils, Dunlop Shares, etc., have caused me 
to have a bigger overdraft than ever I had before 
in my life." 

It was an interesting answer ; but the real 
point is that the London Joint City & Midland 
Bank the largest in the world has for years 
allowed him any credit he desired. 


When a man dies, they who survive him ask what property 
he has left behind. The angel who bends over the dying man 
asks what good deeds he has sent before him. KORAN. 

IN the early days of 1907 came an offer to 
become a member of the Cardiff City Council. 
The head of the " Hall " line was so completely 
surrounded with business at the time of the first 
invitation that he did not feel justified in accept- 
ing. A little later, however, he was offered a seat 
unopposed, and in November, 1907, he was 
elected to the City Council as the representative 
of the South Ward. His career as a Councillor 
is still well remembered. In three years he was 
responsible for more sensations than are most 
men in a lifetime. 

He was immediately appointed Vice-Chairman 
of the Technical Committee and made a member 
of the Watch Committee. In addition, he also 
took the place of the late Sir Thomas Morel on 
the London Committee of Bureau Veritas. So as 
to fill up any spare moments busy men always 
manage to do so he also accepted the appoint- 
ment as delegate to the Associated Chambers of 
Commerce in London, became an arbitrator under 



the Welsh Coal Charter, and did a few other odd 
jobs like interviewing Mr. Gladstone, then the 
Home Secretary, on the Miners' Eight Hour Bill 
and by opposing the Taff Vale Railway Bill, in the 
House of Lords, on behalf of the Cardiff ship- 
owners. The wonder is that he had any time left 
to breathe. 

In 1908 he was elected to the Finance, Health, 
and Education Committees of the Cardiff City 
Council, and on May 17th of the same year he 
opened offices at Newport, Barry, and Port 
Talbot. At almost the same time he became 
President of Nazareth House and Chairman of 
the Cardiff Docks Conservative Association. Ac- 
cording to one of his friends, he rarely allowed 
himself more than four hours for sleep. The 
statement is probably exaggerated, but it is 
easy to believe. 

As a Councillor the member for the South Ward 
was a success from the start. He had always pos- 
sessed the knack of quickly grasping details, but 
it was not until the late summer of 1908 that he 
really came into the public eye. Let me quote 
a report of the " South Wales Echo." It deals 
with the meeting of the Health Committee in 
September, 1908 : 

Serious statements regarding the method of 
licensing seamen's boarding-houses were made 
at to-day's meeting of the Cardiff Health Com- 
mittee (Dr. Robinson in the Chair). Councillor 


E. Nicholl asked how licences were granted to 
boarding-house keepers in Bute Road. He had, 
he said, had several complaints about the con- 
duct of these houses on Sunday evenings when 
persons were passing to and from church. Men 
were sitting on the doorsteps playing cards, and 
the pavement very often was in a dirty con- 
dition. He asked the question because licences 
were granted to persons who, he would con- 
sider, were likely to turn them into houses of 

The Medical Officer of Health (Dr. Walford) : 
'* The Committee grant licences after having 
obtained a certificate of good character from 
the Police." 

Councillor Chappell : "Ah! That's the 
point ! ' : 

Dr. Walford, continuing, said that the matter 
Councillor Nicholl mentioned was certainly a 
police matter. What Councillor Nicholl spoke 
of would be no infringement of the seamen's 
lodging-house regulations, but would be a 
matter for the police. 

Councillor Chappell : " What Councillor 
Nicholl says has a lot of truth in it. Is it not 
a fact that this great report of character from 
the police is no better than this that the 
police know nothing against the applicant ? 
The woman may be as corrupt as you like, and 
we do not care." 

The Chairman : " That is so." 

Councillor Chappell : " It is high time that 
we tried to raise the standard of lodging-houses, 


for the people who hold the licences are guaran- 
teed to the public as holding houses fit to receive 
seamen and seamen need protection as much 
as anybody else." 

Councillor Nicholl made some startling state- 
ments as to what went on in some houses, 
adding that he had it on good authority that 
young girls in these houses, when only fifteen 
or sixteen years of age, were married to for- 
eigners and this was not the worst. 

Councillor Chappell urged that further in- 
quiries should be made in regard to the 
character of the applicants. 

Further discussion followed, and on the 
motion of Councillor E. Nicholl it was decided 
that each applicant and his wife must appear 
in person before the Committee, and there must 
be a joint police-inspector report about the 
character of both men and women. 

Councillor Nicholl subsequently expressed his 
intention to personally visit the lodging-houses, 
Dr. Walford stating that members of the Com- 
mittee had this power. 

That was only the beginning, the preliminary 
to one of the breeziest periods ever experi- 
enced by the Cardiff City Council. Next day 
the inhabitants did little else but discuss what 
had already become known as the " Nicholl 

The Councillor followed up his speech by 
making a tour of inspection of twenty-two 


sailors' boarding-houses in Bute Road and ad- 
joining thoroughfares the heart of Cardiff Docks. 
This is what the reporter of the " Western Mail " 
had to say about his subsequent meeting with 
Councillor Nicholl : 

He coughed like a man who had inadvert- 
ently swallowed an unwholesome thing. 

" I feel as if the things were after me still," 
said he, " the creepy things. Excuse me ! " 

Then he added, in response to a further 
query, that he did not believe Dr. Walford or 
the Chairman of the Health Committee knew 
anything about the matter from their own 
personal knowledge. 

" They could not know the facts and pass 
them," said he. 

Fresh from the purlieu wherein our sailor 
visitors are crowded when ships leave them to 
the mercies of Cardiff, the head of the Cardiff 
" Hall " Line spoke feelingly and with indig- 

He glanced at his notes. 

" Here you are." He coughed again. " The 
unfortunate girl was crying," he interjected. 
" She is only twenty- two and has two black 
babies. Her father is a well-known business 
man. The man who keeps the house where she 
lives is a coloured seaman. He thrashes her so 
unmercifully that the police have to stand be- 
tween her and murder. The case is notorious, 
and she cried while she told me her story. He 
is tired of her. Yet the man is passed as fit and 


proper to conduct a boarding-house. He wants 
to get rid of the woman, too, because she is not 
alluring enough now that she has those two 
half-caste babies." 

The folded sheet of notes happened to have 
that particular folio uppermost when Mr. 
Nicholl picked it up. It was, however, the 
record of only one out of twenty-two houses he 

4 The first house I visited," he subsequently 
explained, " was comparatively typical for one 
of its class. It was a Chinese house of fair re- 
pute. Here are my notes : Twenty-four beds 
in four small rooms. The men fully dressed in 
the various rooms, and the atmosphere thick as 
cake worse than stifling. You can imagine 
what it was like. Cooking in the same room as 
the baggage, boxes, etc. Utensils all about the 
room. The ceilings black with grime, where 
they were not glistening with cockroaches. 
The boarders busy playing cards or smoking 
opium. One English girl kept by the pro- 

" One English girl and twenty-four China- 
men in the same house," commented Mr. 
Nicholl. " And the keeper of the house says 
he is not married ! 

i4 Not far off," he continued, " is a house kept 
by a Russian Finn. It was quite clean, and 
most orderly and decent. So was an English 
house close by. Around the corner, however, 
I deviated from my proper quest and went into 
a Chinese laundry. It was filthy. The back- 

yard was filthy, the rooms were filthy, every- 
thing was filthy ; and laundry clothes clean 
clothes, mind you were hanging on lines over 
it all, to be dried and aired. 

" The next place I entered was a Greek 
boarding-house." Mr. Nicholl here again re- 
ferred to his notes. " It was very decent save 
for the fowl-pen in the backyard, which was 

" The next sailors' boarding-house I entered 
was a Spanish house. There were nine beds in 
one room a room only about eighteen feet by 
twelve feet. Two English girls were apparently 
the only persons in charge. One was twenty- 
two ; the other about thirty. These were 
seemingly the licensed managers of a sailors' 
common lodging-house. 

" Bad, you say ? Look here ! The twenty- 
first house I visited out of the twenty-two was, 
like the first, a Chinese house. The proprietor 
has an English wife. The servant girl an 
English girl of twenty-one had been victim- 
ised by a Greek boarding-house master where 
she was previously, and she was thrown on the 
streets. The Chinese boarding-house master 
then took her in, and there she is. Nineteen 
boarders," added Mr. Nicholl, sententiously. 

6 What condition was the house ? " 

" Very decent indeed, in most respects. That 
is to say, it was very clean by comparison. In 
the backyard lime had been scattered to dis- 
guise the smells made by accumulations of dirt, 
and the top story was naturally a trifle dirty. 


But all things considered, it was a decent 

" Wholly different was another house, where 
everything was simply hideously dirty. It was 
terrible," he repeated, " and it is impossible to 
get away from the things and the smell. My 
companion lifted a lump of something it may 
have been carpet or matting, or a rug, or any- 
thing off the floor ; and they all began to 
creep about everywhere. I can almost hear 
them tramping now. 

" And there were eight beds in the place a 
garret. Eight beds, and they say Cardiff is 
a lovely and slumless city ! 

" Another house I was in had an English girl 
in charge, with a yellow baby in her arms. She 
was stated to be the boarding-master's wife. 
The house was dirty. It was not, however, so 
bad as one house kept by a black man, where 
not only the house was dirty, but the white 
women who lived there, with the five boarders, 
were even dirtier." 

To another newspaper reporter this statement 
was made : 

" Several young English girls at these houses 
admitted to me that they were not married to 
the men who are supposed to be their husbands 
that circumstances had driven them to their 
present mode of life. Just imagine a girl of 
fourteen being allowed to live in a house 
crowded with men of a certain nationality. 


What scenes she must witness ! I came across 
a most heartrending case of a young English- 
woman being forced by circumstances to live 
amidst conditions that cattle would revolt 

" I intend to pursue this matter to the end 
and to call for drastic treatment. Some of the 
houses do not offer more accommodation than 
is necessary for a private house ! The state- 
ments I made at Tuesday's meeting of the 
Health Committee were mild compared with 
what I saw this morning, and I was accom- 
panied by a witness. 

" 1 am not coming out in November," con- 
cluded Councillor Nicholl, " so that I am not 
seeking advertisement or cheap notoriety, but 
calling attention as a public man to a grave 
scandal and insanitary evil an evil which 
must be wiped out with all the speed possible." 

A good deal of activity was manifested in cer- 
tain quarters as a result of these interviews, but 
Councillor Nicholl was by no means satisfied. At 
the next meeting of the Health Committee the 
Crusader returned to the attack. As a conse- 
quence it was decided to inquire into the allega- 
tions. One of the witnesses examined was 
Inspector Holden, who seems to have had a 
somewhat lively time at the hands of Coun- 
cillor Nicholl. Here is an example of the cross- 
examination. It is taken from a newspaper 
report : 


Mr. Nicholl continued the inquiry by asking 
Inspector Holden a few questions : 

" You said last time," he remarked to the 
Inspector, " you knew of no licensed boarding- 
masters keeping slop-shops, but you knew there 
were three or four unlicensed men keeping slop- 
shops ? " 

" That is so." 

" Do you know of any licensed boarding- 
master keeping a slop-shop ? ' : 

44 No, I do not ! " 

" Well," exclaimed Mr. Nicholl, " I do not 
profess to be Sherlock Holmes, but it seems to 
me a most extraordinary thing that you cannot 
see beds, or dungarees, stacked in a room, and 
soap and matches, which are there in large 
quantities, because they are to supply all the 
men boarding there. You give me a lot of 
trouble denying what you must know to 
be true, but everything you deny I will 

Holden said he knew a certain man who was 
a licensed boarding-house keeper in Bute 

44 Is he keeping a slop-shop ? " Mr. Nicholl 

44 No, sir," was the answer. 

Mr. Nicholl : 44 Then I can tell you that he 
has been keeping a slop-shop for years. That 
man deals with a well-known firm of clothiers, 
and here is the book which shows it." 

The book was handed to the Committee for 
their inspection, 


Holden repeated that he had known nothing 
about it. 

Mr. Nicholl : " Do not say that you do not 
know. If you do not, all I can say is that you 
are not fit for your job. You must go in with 
your eyes shut." 

Holden : " I never saw any evidence." 

Mr. Nicholl : " Then what good you are as 
an Inspector the Lord only knows. You would 
not be kept in private employ for two minutes. 
You try to make me look ridiculous in the 
eyes of the Committee by stating that what I 
say is not a fact. If you don't know these 
things I don't think you are keeping your eyes 

Mr. John Chappell said he was convinced 
that Mr. Nicholl was justified for every state- 
ment he had made to the Committee. 

Needless to remark, the allegations made by 
Councillor Nicholl were hotly denied in some 
quarters. But meanwhile the newspapers were 
inundated with letters calling upon the authori- 
ties to take immediate and drastic action. In 
the main people were on the side of the man who 
had revealed a state of affairs that, to say the 
least, was astonishing. What particularly roused 
the citizens of Cardiff was the knowledge that 
cholera was raging in the East ; it was publicly 
stated that Cardiff, and especially that quarter of 
it where the foreign seamen lived, was peculiarly 
liable to an outbreak of the disease, especially as 


cholera was also reported to have made its appear- 
ance on the Continent. Councillor Nicholl capped 
all his previous efforts by later discovering a 
boarding-house, licensed to hold twelve, where 
seventy-eight Chinamen lived ! 

He made mention of the fact at a meeting of 
the Cardiff City Council on October 12th, 1908. 
It resulted in a somewhat heated scene, but at 
the outset he moved the following resolution : 

That as and from the 12th October, 1908, all 
the powers, duties, authorities, and discretions 
vested by law and bye-laws in or exercisable by 
the Council, through the Health and Port Sanitary 
Committee, with regard to seamen's boarding- 
houses in the city of Cardiff (including the grant- 
ing or not granting of licences, the suspension or 
revocation of licences, and the ordering of legal 
proceedings for breaches of the law or bye-laws 
herein), be transferred to and vested in the Watch 
Committee (subject to the Council) ; provided 
that the Health and Port Sanitary Committee 
shall be responsible to the Council as heretofore 
for the sanitary arrangements of all seamen's 
boarding-houses. That so much of the resolutions 
of 9th November, 1907 and 1908, and any other 
resolution or resolutions inconsistent herewith be 

Most of his letters at this time contained 
thanks and congratulations for his efforts to do 
away with a very vile condition of affairs. Nor 


was he denied Press tributes. One Cardiff paper 
printed this : 

One of the most pleasing incidents in yester- 
day's investigation by the Cardiff Health 
Committee into the conduct of boarding-houses 
was the magnanimous tribute paid to Mr. 
Edward Nicholl, the pioneer of the Crusade, by 
Dr. Smith. Mr. Nicholl has ridden rough shod 
over all the rules of conventional procedure in 
making out his case, but right through the 
piece he has convinced everybody of his abso- 
lute sincerity and his singleness of motive in 
aiming at a reform which will help materially 
to restore the good name of Cardiff, not only 
locally, but all over the world. He has done 
more good in a month than the pious Cardiff 
Citizen's Union are likely to accomplish until 
they adopt another name. 

Councillor Nicholl did not content himself with 
criticism ; he was ready to offer practical sug- 
gestions for reform. The speech which he had not 
found an opportunity of delivering before the full 
Council was later delivered and seized upon by 
the newspapers, and so presented with the pub- 
licity it deserved. It revealed an abominable 
state of affairs. The conditions in the house 
where the seventy-eight men slept were filthy in 
the extreme. No fewer than twelve breaches of 
the bye-laws had been proved. Boarding-houses 
that had no licences were openly kept; in some 


places not a washing utensil was seen. The sug- 
gestions for reform were these they are given as 
they were written at the time : 

Put the police on the heels of the boarding- 
masters. Let the medical officers visit every 
boarding-house to see that the sanitary arrange- 
ments are in accordance with the bye-laws, and 
not rely on subordinates. 

Close immediately all insanitary houses or with- 
draw the licence. 

Let there be closer supervision, and inspection 
of unlicensed houses ; no sailors' boarding-house 
to be run without a licence. 

Let all boarding-house masters appear before 
the Chief Constable or the Watch Committee, or 
both, so that the latter may judge from the 
language test and other circumstances whether 
they are fit and proper persons to conduct 
boarding-houses ; and ascertain, at the same time, 
the number of women and children, and whether 
married or single, living in the houses ; and point 
out to them the penalty of disobeying the bye- 

Instantly withdraw every licence from those 
considered unfit to manage a house. 

Let there be systematic, regular, and thorough 
inspection upstairs and down, and day and night, 
and an occasional visit by a rota of members of 
the Committee. 

44 Prompt action " was the cry of every one 


after this speech had been printed. One of 
the Welsh papers devoted a column to the 

There exists in respect of certain houses (it 
said, in conclusion) kept by foreigners a state 
of things in relation to English girls secured 
as servants that cannot be described in a 
newspaper ; and even if the statements of the 
letters received be greatly exaggerated they 
nevertheless show the urgent need of constant 
inspection, the closest supervision, and imme- 
diate inquiry. At the special meeting which 
the Health Committee has called it is most 
urgently to be desired that Councillor Nicholl 
will see his way to attend and give to the Com- 
mittee the particulars which have come into his 
hands, so that he may convince any doubters 
upon that Committee both of the neglect of 
the past and of the imperative need of prompt 

In the end Councillor Nicholl was not only 
justified, but thanked for his public-spirited 
action. At the final meeting of the Health Com- 
mittee some extraordinary admissions were made 
by officials. Books that had been provided for a 
particular purpose had not even been opened 
Mr. Nicholl had discovered that some of them had 
not been initialled or signed for years ! He found, 
too this as the result of a fortunate meeting with 
an acquaintance that a " rush " order had been 


given to a local printer to deliver some hundreds 
of registration books. 

After a sitting of three and a half hours there 
was complete unanimity that the member for the 
South Ward had proved his charges up to the 
hilt. The matter was later taken up in the House 
of Commons by Mr. Renwick, who represented 
Newcastle-on-Tyne ; and Mr. Churchill, in reply 
to a question, made this statement : 

" I am aware of the allegations which have 
been made as regards the seamen's boarding- 
houses at Cardiff, and understand that they are 
not without foundation. I have been in com- 
munication with the local authorities, and am 
informed that urgent attention is being given to 
the matter with a view to securing a vigorous 
administration of the bye-laws regulating board- 
ing-houses. I am taking steps to obtain informa- 
tion as regards the state of seamen's boarding- 
houses at the other seaports in respect of which 
the Board of Trade have approved bye-laws, and 
the whole matter will receive careful considera- 

Councillor Nicholl was unquestionably the man 
of the moment. At a certain meeting of the 
Public Works Committee, Alderman Carey, after 
referring to the request of certain householders in 
Stoughton Street that the name of the thorough- 
fare be changed, seriously suggested that it be 
called Nicholl Street. Other people came along 


with disclosures. The original crusader was in 
the meantime overwhelmed with suggestions, and 
thanks, and threats ; but the chief result, as one 
speaker mentioned at a meeting of the Cardiff 
City Council in December, was that the boarding- 
houses " are now parlours and drawing-rooms 
compared with what they were a few months 

There was a demand that the Local Govern- 
ment Board be called upon to hold an inquiry, 
but the City Council, after some discussion, de- 
cided against. But at the same meeting the 
following resolution was unanimously passed : 

That the General Purposes Committee having 
had through its several members a precis of the 
evidence recently taken by the Health Com- 
mittee, re seamen's boarding-houses, licensed and 
unlicensed, offer its respectful thanks to Coun- 
cillor Nicholl for the information in relation there- 
to which he was able to put before the Committee, 
expresses its regret at the laxity of administration 
referred to on the part of certain officials in respect 
to this matter, which reflects seriously on the 
officers concerned, and warns them that any repe- 
tition of such laxity will be visited with the 
severity the cases call for. That this Committee 
also hears with great satisfaction that the Health 
Committee has in hand such rearrangement of 
the departments as is calculated to cause it to be 


worked more efficiently in the future than it has 
in some instances in the past. 

So ended an affair that, for a time at least, 
made Cardiff one of the most talked of cities in 
the land. 


Fame comes only when deserved, and then 
It is as inevitable as destiny, for it is destiny. 


cleansing of seamen's boarding-houses, 
JL however, was not the only matter that 
Councillor Nicholl was interested in. He helped 
materially in bringing to light another condition 
of affairs that was undesirable in the extreme. 
On the 20th August, 1908, the following para- 
graph appeared in the London " Daily Tele- 
graph " : 

Mr. Edward Nicholl, shipowner, brought 
under the notice of the Cardiff Chamber of 
Commerce yesterday the matter of P.P.I. 
policies on shipping, and asked the Chamber to 
appeal to the President of the Board of Trade 
for an inquiry into the matter. It was, he said, 
a very serious matter. When they heard in the 
streets that one of their own boats had been 
insured it would no doubt affect the firm's in- 
surances. A man was not allowed to insure 
another life unless he could show some interest 
in it. The same principle should apply to ships. 
Mr. Trevor S. Jones said Cardiff had been 
rather the hotbed of these P.P.I, policies, and 



it was really time that the business was put a 
stop to. 

It was agreed to support the resolution of the 
shipowners on the subject. 

This question of gambling on overdues had 
been previously raised at the monthly meeting of 
the Cardiff Shipowners' Association by Mr. 
Nicholl, and he had then made some extraordi- 
nary statements. He mentioned, for example, 
that only that morning, when on his way to the 
Docks, he had been told that P.P.I, policies had 
been taken out on one of his own steamers. He 
could not protest too strongly, he said, against 
outsiders taking " lines " on his vessels in this 
way, and he further announced his intention of 
communicating with Mr. Winston Churchill, the 
President of the Board of Trade, the Committee 
of Lloyds, and companies insuring vessels, on the 
subject. He also intended to inform Lloyds that, 
as he had no interest in the appointments of 
masters of his vessels beyond their qualifications, 
he would be willing to allow them to appoint the 
captains, so as to remove any suspicions that 
might exist, though for his own part he had no 
suspicion of any kind so far as his officers were 

This speech started a discussion that brought 
out some very remarkable facts. As an illustra- 
tion of what some shipowners thought, particu- 


larly as it tended to increase the ordinary terms 
for insurance on vessels selected by the specul- 
ators (or " wreckers," as one speaker called 
them), it was related that a certain shipowner, 
hearing that P.P.I, policies were being taken out 
on one of his vessels, discharged the whole of 
his crew, including the captain, and laid the 
vessel up. 

It was generally felt by those at the meeting 
that, in the interests of the ship's-officers who 
might be charged with being in collusion with 
outsiders, that the practice of issuing these 
policies to those who had not got a bona fide 
interest should be stopped, and this resolution 
for presentation to the President of the Board of 
Trade, to the Committee of Lloyds, and to all the 
other Shipowners' Associations of the kingdom 
was unanimously passed : 

That the Association strongly deprecates the 
gambling that is taking place in P.P.I, policies 
whereby insurers gamble in vessels in which they 
have no interest, to the detriment of shipowners 
and other legitimate insurers, and trusts that 
the Board of Trade will devise some means to 
counteract this evil. 

A week or so later a largely attended meeting 
of Lloyds' underwriters passed a similarly worded 
resolution, and later still it was announced that 
the President of the Board of Trade had con- 


vened a Conference of Shipowners and Under- 
writers for December 17th, 1908, to deal with the 
whole question of speculative insurance. 

Discussing the step taken by the underwriters, 
" The Times " said : 

The speakers at the meeting, it is understood, 
thought that if underwriters would steadily set 
their faces against what is really a practice of 
gambling in ships, legislation would be un- 
necessary. But it will be noticed that, what- 
ever may be the moral weight attaching to the 
resolution, it has no binding force, and in some 
quarters it is thought that an Act prohibiting 
insurance by persons wholly unconnected with 
either ship or cargo would be salutary and 
would cause no real inconvenience to the mer- 
cantile community. In this connection the 
fact deserves to be emphasised, for it is often 
not understood, that P.P.I, policies are largely 
used in business, and when taken up by persons 
having some indirect interest in the venture no 
great objection can be raised against them ; the 
policies which underwriters are now almost 
unanimous in condemning are those effected 
by persons (even office-boys and shop-assistants 
have been known to effect them) having no in- 
terest, direct or indirect, and which of late have 
sometimes been distinguished by the lettering 
N.Q.A. (no questions asked). In any case, 
general satisfaction is expressed that the mem- 
bers of Lloyds have condemned a practice for 
which nothing good can be said. 


From this authoritative statement it will be 
seen that Mr. Nicholl had raised a point that was 
not only of interest to shipowners, but to the 
community at large. He had brought into the 
light of day what in reality was a pernicious and 
dangerous practice ; he had revealed a state of 
affairs that, to say the least of it, was a distinct 
menace. As he pointed out, the amount of 
business done in P.P.I, policies had not only had 
the effect of raising the rates for legitimate in- 
surance to shipowners, but in the cases of owners 
of small boats had made it either impossible for 
them to insure their boats at all, or else only 
permitted them to do so at almost prohibitive 

He was of opinion that there were evidently a 
number of men, especially at Cardiff Docks, who 
had made this class of speculative insurance a 
business. They appeared to select boats which 
were under mortgage, in many cases because their 
share capital had not been entirely subscribed or 
which were known to be trading at a loss. In 
addition they had looked up the records of the 
captains, and sometimes gambled in such policies 
when the captain had lost one or more ships. 
They undoubtedly had wonderful sources of in- 
formation, and had consequently brought off a 
number of coups. 

When it dawned on the Press of the country 
that something had been uncovered that was a 


very real danger they took up the matter with 

" P.P.I, policies," said one paper, " introduce 
an unhealthy and immoral influence into mari- 
time affairs. We make no appeal to the harpies 
who deal in spotted steamers to desist. But we 
do appeal to the Government to step in and 
rigidly limit the sphere of their activities. The 
man who puts a sovereign on a horse expecting 
it to win is a saint compared with the man who 
puts 50 or 100 on a ship expecting it to be lost. 
Yet the former is under the surveillance of the 
police, and his agent is liable to arrest ; whilst 
the latter is given free play for his profession. 
This is a scandal which cannot be prolonged." 

As was fitting, Mr. Nicholl was selected by the 
Cardiff shipowners to represent them on the Con- 
ference. The other shipowners were : Mr. F. S. 
Watts (London), Mr. H. Fermie (Liverpool), and 
Mr. R. J. Dunlop (Glasgow). The four under- 
writers were : Sir John Luscombe (Chairman of 
Lloyds), Mr. R. B. Lemon (Institute of London 
Underwriters), Mr. W. J. Maclellan (Glasgow), 
and Mr. Joseph Pemberton (of the Reliance 
Marine Insurance Company, and Chairman of the 
Liverpool Underwriters' Association). 

The first meeting it was in reality more in the 
nature of an informal talk was held in London 
on December 17th. Mr. Churchill was accom- 
panied by Sir N. Llewellyn Smith (Permanent 


Secretary to the Board of Trade), Sir W. Howell 
(Head of the Marine Department), and Mr. Cun- 
liffe Owen (Solicitor to the Board). The proceed- 
ings were strictly private and lasted for two hours. 
No formal speeches were made and no resolutions 
submitted ; but, after considerable discussion, 
Mr. Churchill put forward certain ideas which in 
the main were covered by the proposals first sub- 
mitted to the Cardiff Shipowners' Association by 
Mr. Nicholl. The meeting then adjourned to dis- 
cuss the position as it was affected by Mr. 
Churchill's statements. 

And now to the sequel. On May 17th, 1909, 
the Cardiff " Evening Express " published this 
interesting paragraph : 

Mr. Edward Nicholl, of the Cardiff " Hall " 
Line of steamers, who was the first to move in 
the matter of P.P.I, policies, received a letter 
to-day from the Board of Trade enclosing a 
copy of the Marine Insurance (Gambling Poli- 
cies) Bill now introduced to Parliament. Special 
attention is drawn in the letter to the clauses, 
section one, sub-section (1), introduced with a 
view to prohibiting masters and other persons 
who have some interest in a vessel from specu- 
lating on her by taking out P.P.I, policies. 
Provision is made in sub-clause eight for the 
application of the Bill to Scotland. 

It will be recollected that the Bill is the out- 
come of the agitation raised by Mr. Nicholl and 
first brought to public notice by his letter to 


the " Western Mail." It was then actively 
pushed forward by the Cardiff Shipowners' 
Association and the Cardiff Chamber of Com- 
merce, with the support of other similar 
organisations in the kingdom, Mr. Nicholl being 
selected to represent the Cardiff bodies in con- 
sultation with the President of the" Board of 
Trade. In this capacity Mr. Nicholl has jour- 
neyed to London on several occasions. 

The Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. 
Churchill, Mr. Runciman, and Mr. Tennant, 
provides that if any person effects a contract 
of marine insurance without having any bona 
fide interest, direct or indirect, either in the 
safe arrival of the ship in relation to which the 
contract is made or in the safety or preserva- 
tion of the subject-matter insured, or a bona 
fide expectation of such an interest, or if any 
person in the employ of the owner of a ship not 
being a part-owner of it, effects a contract in 
relation to the ship, and the contract is made 
" interest or no interest," or " without further 
proof of interest than the policy itself," or 
'' without benefit of salvage to the insurer," or 
subject to any like term, the contract will be 
deemed to be one by way of gambling on loss 
by maritime perils, and the person effecting it 
will be liable, on summary conviction, to im- 
prisonment for six months or a fine up to 100, 
and in either case to forfeit any money received 
under the contract. Brokers through whom 
and insurers with whom such contracts are 
effected will incur like penalties if they act 


knowing that the contracts are by way of 
gambling on loss by maritime perils. 

This Bill was carried through both Houses of 
Parliament and put on the Statute Book in the 
record time of two months. Mr. Churchill him- 
self admitted that it was one of the most necessary 
Bills ever passed. 

This, as was remarked in another paper, was a 
distinct feather in the cap of Mr. Nicholl. With 
his customary thoroughness he had first revealed 
an evil, and had then pushed forward until the 
evil was removed. No wonder a correspondent 
with a sense of humour not to say the fitness of 
things was tempted to send the following to a 
Cardiff journal. The Welsh National Pageant was 
being discussed at the moment, and the corre- 
spondent obviously had the boarding-houses 
scandal particularly in his mind. The document 
read : 

Here is another suggestion for the Pageant 
Committee. Councillor Edward Nicholl, R.N.R., 
as Hercules, cleaning out the Augean stables ; 
he is clothed in leopard skins, has a club swing- 
ing over his shoulder, and is seen sweeping before 
him with a broom a flock of alien boarding-house 

Councillor Nicholl : 

When you've shouted, " Cymru, Cymru, good old Cardiff's 
rugger team ! " 


When you've cheered the new Lord Mayor with ready mouth, 
Will you kindly stop and listen while I tell you what I've 


'Mongst those beggars in the Ward that's known as " South " ? 
For I've been down among 'em, in the state that's called 


And I tell you 'tain't perfoom'ry that I like ; 
And the houses might perhaps do for a kennel for my dog 
If he ain't a too partic'lar sort of tyke. 

Cooks' sons, Dagos' sons, sons of a blasted Moor, 
Bringing their filth and their rags with them, and filling up 

Tiger Bay, 

Each of 'em doing his dirty work 
Behind an unopened door. 
Chuck 'em out for your credit's sake, 
To-day, to-day, to-day ! 

Your new Town Hall's all right, but I'll make it useful, too, 

And some of those inside must get the sack. 

For I'm coming to its Council to denounce the alien crew, 

And I've got the Cardiff voters at my back. 

The inspectors did it casual, they must do it thorough now, 

And when the law is broken they must fine 'em, 

And make the scum of nations to our regulations bow, 

And must clear the mess those beggars left behind 'em. 

Cooks' sons, niggers' sons, blooming sons of a gun, 

Soiling our city's fair good name and 

Nobody looking their way. 

We've had enough of their dirty work and the cleaning up's 

Their little game must come to a stop to-day, to-day, to-day ! 

Even cleaning out filthy dens and putting a 
stop to the activities of gamblers in ships did not 
occupy the whole of Mr. Nicholl's time. He found 
moments to conduct students over his ships, to 


enter the lists again as a champion of the British 
sailor ; to support Lord Ninian Stuart when the 
latter stood for the City Council ; to take a very 
active part in the proposed Taff-Bute-Rhymney 
Railway combine ; to lend a hand to the Cardiff 
Docks Soup Kitchen ; to welcome Jim Driscoll, 
the boxer, on his return from America ; to help 
very materially in organising a successful assault- 
at-arms for Nazareth House (of which Institution 
he was then the Chairman of the Committee) ; 
and to submit proposals which he believed would 
do much to solve the vexed problem of the load- 

These proposals were, in the main, in the 
nature of being revolutionary. The year had 
been a comparatively bad one for shipowners, 
and the position had been aggravated by the in- 
troduction of an increased load-line in order to 
meet German views. A conference of shipowners 
had gone so far as to suggest laying up a sixth of 
the tonnage of the world, but Mr. Nicholl's pro- 
posals were designed to obviate the necessity. 

His first suggestion was to take a certain per- 
centage of the tonnage 5 or 10 per cent off the 
dead weight carrying capacity of all steamers 
then running instead of one-sixth of the total 
laying up. Secondly, he suggested that all 
steamers within the conference should totally 
ignore the Board of Trade load-line and, instead, 
be marked with a conference load-line, thus 


taking off 5 or 10 per cent of the then load-line, 
or else going back to the old Plimsoll line. 
Thirdly, he proposed that conference surveyors 
be appointed in all ports to watch the loading 
and to report to the Committee boats submerging 
the mark, and that steamers found to have sub- 
merged the mark should pay all freights received 
from that extra cargo into a conference pool 
towards expenses. If desired by the conference 
committee, owners would be required, at any 
time, to produce their bills of lading to show 
what cargoes they had carried, the conference to 
give one, two, or three months' notice to reduce 
the percentage carried to 2j, after pooling the 
excess freight, such notice to be immediately 
transmitted to every loading port in the world, 
so that no one could take advantage and increase 
the cargo for a week or two from the given date. 
The final proposition was that all boats which 
were in the control of the conference should for 
a time pay a large proportion of the excess freight 
they received into a pool to meet the surveyor's 
and other charges. 

Mr. Nicholl contended that if these proposals 
were adopted hundreds of officers and men would 
be kept in employment, freights would imme- 
diately rise, and some of the steamers laid up 
would be released. 

Nor was this all. In some phenomenal fashion 
he found time to bring up a matter that was of 

great importance to Cardiff. That was the ques- 
tion of the Bute leases. He had discovered that 
there was a belief in existence that the Marquess 
of Bute was disinclined to consider a renewal of 
Cardiff building leases of which he was ground 
landlord and which were then drawing to a close. 
In the neighbourhood of the Docks many of the 
leases of property only had about thirty years to 
run. In several cases they were mortgaged under 
mortgages of many years' standing, and some of 
the mortgagees were calling in their money, owing 
to the shortness of the term which was left. 
Even the owners of premises which were not 
mortgaged were feeling nervous ; they felt that, 
unless they could extend their leases or get them 
renewed on fair and reasonable terms, in a 
short number of years the properties would pass 
away from their families altogether. 

" Deriving the enormous income which the 
Marquess of Bute does from his Cardiff property " 
(said Mr. Nicholl in an explanatory letter to the 
Lord Mayor he was unable to be present at the 
meeting of the Parliamentary Committee of the 
City Council owing to an appointment with the 
President of the Board of Trade), " I should my- 
self expect that he would favourably consider the 
extension or renewal on proper terms of the ex- 
piring leases to his tenants. 

" If the Marquess should, however, decline to 
renew or extend the expiring leases granted by 


his grandfather, then I hold a very strong view 
that this must seriously prejudice not only the 
owners of the properties, but the interests of the 
city itself; and it seems to me, now that the 
Council is asked, by a resolution, to aid the 
Marquess in relieving himself of his extensive 
interests in the Cardiff Railway Company, that 
this is a proper time for learning his Lordship's 
intention as to Cardiff leases. 

4 ' If he adopts the attitude that leases shall not 
be extended or renewed, then this would be such 
a very serious blow, in my opinion, to Cardiff, 
that I should have to consider carefully whether, 
in the circumstances, I ought to support the 
Amalgamation Bill. 

" My own strong opinion is that the Marquess, 
on the matter being fully and clearly brought 
before him and no one could do this more ably 
than yourself would act fairly and reasonably 
to his tenants ; but I do think and I feel very 
strongly on the point, and hence my attitude if 
the Council is to give its support and its help to 
the Marquess to relieve himself of his liability 
and his responsibility as a dock owner, that, in 
view of the statements currently made as to a 
disinclination on his part to renew or extend 
expiring leases, there should be some assurance 
given before the Council pledges itself to give its 

Attached to the letter was this resolution : 
That, in view of the importance of the matter 


to many citizens of Cardiff, and in view of its 
importance with reference to the growth and 
prosperity of the city itself, the Council approach 
the Marquess of Bute with regard to his Lord- 
ship's intention as to the renewal or extension on 
fair and equitable terms of Bute ground leases 
which are drawing to a close. Also, that the 
Marquess be approached to consider, in his own 
interests and that of the City, the expediency in 
the future of granting leases for industrial pur- 
poses for longer terms than are now granted by 
the Bute Estate ; also that it be a direction to 
the Parliamentary Committee, in view of the 
early hearing of the Bill, to abstain from pledging 
the Council to support the Bute, Taff, and 
Rhymney Amalgamation Bill until his Lordship's 
views have been obtained. 

The resolution " put before the City Council 
by Councillor Nicholl with that energy and 
directness for which the Docks representative has 
already become famous " as one newspaper 
stated in a lengthy article, was generally looked 
upon as of vital importance to the future welfare 
of not only the trading community, but also to 
the whole of the working and general population 
of the city and port. " If Councillor Nicholl " 
(continued the reporter) " can now bring the City 
Council to a proper view of their imperative duty 
in this matter he will indeed deserve well of his 


Councillor Nicholl did, but not before another 
newspaper had printed a very strong leading 
article on the subject. Part of it said : 

In his letter read at the meeting of the Par- 
liamentary Committee of the Cardiff Corpora- 
tion, Councillor Nicholl neither minimised nor 
magnified the facts of the case, but sets them 
forth in a manner that he who runs may read, 
and should rouse every ratepayer in Cardiff to 
bring pressure to bear on those who are the 
custodians of the welfare of the city. . . . 
" Forethought " showed yesterday that among 
the main effects resulting in Cardiff from the 
present impossibility of securing freehold land, 
or land on leases of sufficient length to justify 
the necessary capital expenditure, are that the 
great coal and shipping trades, with all their 
ancillary industries, are being carried on in 
small dwelling-houses entirely unsuitable for 
office purposes ; that whilst millions have been 
spent on the docks and railways in order to 
develop the trade of the city, the erection and 
modernisation of offices from which that trade 
must be carried on has been rendered absolutely 
impossible ; and that during the past ten years 
the city has suffered from a chronic state of de- 
pression in all the industries connected with 
building, absolutely and entirely due to the 
fact that the building which would be done if 
freehold land were obtainable or existing leases 
were renewable has been entirely prevented. 
There is no question as to these facts. They 

cannot be disputed, and they are such that 
they cannot be tolerated if the interests of the 
port are to be safeguarded. 

Councillor Nicholl formally moved his resolu- 
tion at a meeting of the Cardiff City Council on 
April 5th, 1909. In his speech he said that it was 
generally believed that there were two millions 
advanced on properties in Cardiff ; in his opinion 
nearer fifteen millions had been advanced by 
banks and private loans. He knew one man who 
was willing to spend 80,000 at once on buildings 
in James Street if Lord Bute would grant him a 
satisfactory renewal of the leases. Councillor 
Nicholl wound up by suggesting that the Lord 
Mayor be asked to approach Lord Bute and ask 
for his Lordship's views. After much discussion 
the whole question was referred to the Develop- 
ment Committee. 

By this time and particularly as the result of 
his attitude in the matter of the Bute leases 
Councillor Nicholl was so much in the public eye 
that it may be said, without exaggeration, that 
he was quite one of the best known men in South 
Wales. In less than a month he was responsible 
for what one of the papers called " another docks 
tickler." This had to do with the caretaker of 
the Cardiff Sailors' Home ; and then, on top of 
that, came another exposure of the kind of den 
that masqueraded as a model lodging-house in 
Mary Ann Street. 


The " Evening Express " was very near to the 
mark when it said : " One can never guess what 
will be the next thing to catch the vigilant eye 
of Mr. Edward Nicholl." Councillor Nicholl, as a 
matter of fact, was all out to do the best he could 
for the city of his adoption. He called attention 
to the shameful way in which the Mental Hospital 
was made a peep-show and a place of entertain- 
ment for laughing, jeering passers-by ; he made 
mention of the filthy way in which certain ice- 
cream vendors manufactured their ware ; and all 
the time he was attending to his own particular 
job, which was making profits for his share- 

In June, 1909, he issued the following state- 
ment. It dealt exclusively with the vessels of the 
"Hall" Line: 

" Whateley Hall," profit from June 9th, 1904, 
to February 13th, 1909 . . . . 15,380 

" Eaton Hall," profit from August 5th, 1904, to 

January 22nd, 1909 . . . . 17,987 

" Grindon Hall," profit from September 26th, 

1905, to November 27th, 1908 . . 12,978 
"Tredegar Hall," profit from August 26th, 

1906, to October 24th, 1908 * . . 5,734 
"Silksworth Hall," profit from July 22nd, 

1907, to September llth, 1908 . . 4,461 
" Haigh Hall," profit from July 22nd, 1908, to 

February 13th, 1909 . . . . 1,834 
" Welbeck Hall," profit from May 18th, 1907, 

to August 30th, 1908 . . . 2,872 


The actual dividends paid on the capital of the 
fleet excluding the " Welbeck Hall " averaged 
7J per cent per annum, in addition to which con- 
siderable amounts had been paid off debentures. 
The " Welbeck Hall," which carried no deben- 
tures, was responsible for an average dividend of 
16J per cent per annum. 

Which, taken anyhow, was by no means a bad 
result for a man whose activities were so many 
and so varied that it was generally believed that 
he had found the secret of doing without sleep 
altogether. One of his minor achievements was 
to break all records for a Nazareth House 
assault-at-arms. A total sum of 550 was 
handed to the Lady Superior. 

In token of this effort Councillor Nicholl was 
given an illuminated address. It read : 

To Edward Nicholl, Esq., Chairman of the Com- 
mittee of the Assault-at-Arms, in aid of 
Nazareth House, Cardiff. 


It is the earnest desire of the sisters and 
inmates of Nazareth House to thank, in a fitting 
manner, both you and the gentlemen of the 
committee of the Assault-at-Arms for your noble 
efforts on behalf of this Institution. To do so 
adequately we cannot, nor can we give you the 
slightest proof of our gratitude except you take 
as such the love of our childish hearts, which you 
have won by your repeated acts of kindness to us, 










apart from what you have done with regard to 
the Assault-at-Arms. 

It must be apparent to those interested in the 
work of Nazareth House the mighty effort made 
by the devoted self-sacrificing members of the 
Committee to bring the Assault-at-Arms to the 
high standard it has this year achieved, the 
members having worked with even greater de- 
votedness to surpass the wonderful results of 
former years. In you, dear Sir, we have found a 
kind and sympathetic friend whose heart is ever 
ready to help the needy, and one who shows his 
love for children in a very practical form. That 
the Divine Lover of little children may reward 
you is the earnest prayer of all at 


This address it was beautifully executed by 
the sisters of the Institution to-day occupies the 
place of honour in the library at Littleton Park. 
To show they were not forgetful, the sisters sent 
another in 1920. It is, if anything, more beau- 
tiful than the first. It expresses the following 
sentiments : 



We feel it imperative that we should try 
to express in some way the deep gratitude we 
feel for the generous help you have given, and the 
kindly interest you have shown towards us for 
such a number of years. 


Many messages of thanks we know you must 
receive from those who have benefited by your 
liberality for your charity extends to many 
but none could be warmer or more sincere than 
those coming from the sisters, old people, and 
children of Nazareth House, Cardiff, where your 
name is associated with so many pleasant 

When looking back over past years how many 
Red-Letter Days there have been we realise 
they have been made such by a kind visit or a 
noble act of generosity by our benevolent bene- 
factor Sir Edward Nicholl. 

Though we have not the pleasure of seeing you 
so often now, still we know we are not forgotten, 
and one of our happiest thoughts is, that we hope 
to see you soon again. 

A return for your charity we know you do 
receive, for He who faithfully rewards the least 
kindness done will surely hear the prayers offered 
on your behalf, from so many grateful hearts at 
Nazareth House, Cardiff. 


The heights by great men reached and kept 
Were not attained by sudden flight. 

But they, while their companions slept, 
Were toiling upward in the night. 


/COUNCILLOR NICHOLL'S connection with 
VV the Cardiff Corporation came to an end in 
July, 1910. The story or, at least, that part of 
it which led up to his resignation is a rather 
singular one. 

Soon after the death of King Edward, at a 
City Council luncheon, he threw out the sugges- 
tion that the vacant plot in front of the City Hall 
should be used to erect a statue to the dead 
monarch. After asking the Lord Mayor and the 
Council to consider the matter he promised to 
donate one hundred guineas towards the cost, and 
even went further by guaranteeing to collect some 
thousands of pounds from his friends. At the 
request of the Mayor, Councillor John Chappell, 
he repeated this offer at a full meeting of the 
Council, when the proposition was formally dis- 
cussed. It was then pointed out that the plot of 
land Councillor Nicholl had in his mind was being 


reserved for the erection of a memorial to the late 
Marquess of Bute, and Mr. Nicholl, after some 
discussion, was finally asked to interview Lord 
Merthyr (then Sir William Thomas Lewis), so as 
to see whether the site could be obtained. 

Councillor Nicholl did so, and clinched matters 
by producing a plan of the proposed statue. The 
result was that Lord Merthyr gave permission, on 
behalf of the Marquess of Bute, for the statue to 
be erected on the site selected. 

At the next meeting of the Council, when the 
details of the scheme were again considered, it 
was proposed that the memorial be national in- 
stead of local. The idea was that a letter should 
be sent to all the Welsh mayors, asking them to 
attend the meeting, over which Lord Plymouth 
would preside. This meeting was eventually con- 
vened, but, as usual, it was preceded by a 
luncheon and to this Councillor Nicholl was not 
invited ! 

Naturally, he was annoyed. He said so, in 
plain words, during a subsequent telephone con- 
versation with Councillor Chappell. In addition, 
he made it perfectly clear that he would resign 
on the morrow. " Active business men are not 
wanted on the Council," he remarked to the Lord 
Mayor, " and that is the reason why they are so 
seldom seen there. It is no place for me, any- 
way." It subsequently transpired the informa- 
tion was conveyed to Mr. Nicholl with lightning 


speed that at a meeting of the Parliamentary 
Committee it was proposed that he be invited, 
but one or two members for reasons that are 
not quite apparent to this day raised an ob- 
jection, and the net result was that he was not 

Councillor Nicholl rightly felt that he had been 
dealt with in an ungenerous spirit by his col- 
leagues, and, as has been said, he decided to sever 
at once his connection with the Corporation. 
He did so by means of the following letter to the 
Town Clerk: 


Enclosed please find key to the side en- 
trance of the City Hall, which was given to me 
on my election as City Councillor. 

I also desire you to strike my name off the list 
of City Councillors, to save postage of the various 
documents continually being sent, as it is my in- 
tention to take no further interest in Corporation 
matters, and, in any case, I shall certainly not 
contest my seat again. 

The Lord Mayor is thoroughly conversant with 
the reason of this immediate resignation. 
Believe me, 

Yours very truly, 


The " Express " called it a " City bombshell," 
and indeed it was all that. To many people it 


was unthinkable that the man who had done so 
much should thus drop out ; the Lord Mayor 
must have thought the same, and he made every 
effort to induce Mr. Nicholl to reconsider his 
decision. The Father of the Council, Alderman 
Bevan, also went to his office and begged him to 
think things over. Then the newspapers took a 
hand. The " Evening Express " indicated popu- 
lar opinion in this leading article : 

Though he has only sat on the Cardiff City 
Council since November, 1907, there is not a 
member of the Corporation better known than 
Mr. Edward Nicholl, who has always pursued 
an independent and fearless policy, regardless 
of personal consequences. One need only re- 
call his crusade with regard to seamen's 
lodging-houses to be reminded of the kind of 
stuff that the member of the South Ward is 
made of, and nobody could have caused a 
greater sensation by resigning than this in- 
trepid watcher of the public interests on the 
City Council. In fact, the ratepayers can ill 
afford to lose one who has looked so well after 
their interests on a body where the officials are 
allowed a liberty that is dangerous because of 
the corresponding lack of knowledge in alder- 
men and councillors who have to trust them 
so implicitly. I am going to say nothing of 
the merits of the reason put forward by Mr. 
Nioholl for his sudden resignation, but after 
saying much that can be regarded as flattering 


(and deserved), it has to be added that if that 
gentleman has a fault it is his rather hasty 
temper. And I trust, with very many more 
who have the interests of the city at heart, that, 
on reflection, Mr. Nicholl will allow his resigna- 
tion to be withdrawn. In the interests of 
health and sanitation alone Mr. Nicholl ought 
to be persuaded to continue a good work that 
has only just begun. 

But Mr. Nicholl was adamant. Under the cir- 
cumstances he could not have been otherwise. 
There should never have been any question about 
sending him an invitation to the luncheon. He 
was the father of the scheme ; he should have 
been the first person thought of. 

In finally accepting the resignation the City 
Council, however, did a very graceful thing. 
They sent Mr. Nicholl this very interesting docu- 
ment : 

Extract from the Minutes of the Proceedings of 
the Council of the City of Cardiff held on the 
llth day of July, 1910. 

A letter dated the 1st July was received from 
Councillor Nicholl resigning his seat as a Coun- 
cillor for the South Ward and enclosing the fine 
(5). Resolved : 

That the resignation be accepted with great 
regret and that this Council place on record its 
great appreciation of the excellent services ren- 


dered by Councillor Nicholl to the City and Port 
of Cardiff. 
Resolved : 

That the five pounds be returned to Mr. Nicholl. 
Truly extracted, 

Town Clerk. 

Mr. Nicholl rested for three days. Then his 
extraordinary desire to be perpetually doing 
something again took command, with the result 
that his activities broke out in an entirely new 
direction. He ceased to be a Councillor on the 
llth of July ; on the 14th he founded the Cardiff 
Naval Brigade. The idea had been simmering in 
his mind for some time, and now, with at least 
five minutes to do with as he liked, he set himself 
to the task of benefiting the youth of the city. 
His scheme was built up on ambitious lines ; it 
was his intention, if possible, to raise a battalion 
of one thousand boys who would be encouraged 
to take an interest in everything that appertained 
to sound discipline and manliness, while at the 
same time giving them healthy, robust exercise 
and the ability, if necessary or desirable, to fall 
in line for their country's defence, either on board 
ship or for home defence. 

It was part of the plan that the Admiralty were 
to be asked for the necessary rifles and guns. 
Heavy gun-drill was to be one of the exercises. 
The class of youth desired was the lad about 


sixteen years of age, but there was also to be a 
cadet corps for younger boys. The whole idea, 
as Mr. Nicholl himself put it at the time, was to 
fill the gap in which certain youths found them- 
selves too old for the Boy Scouts and too young 
for the Territorial Army. 

The idea caught on like wildfire. When the 
youngsters of the city were told that they would 
be fitted out with uniforms that would be com- 
plete in every detail an exact reproduction of 
the British bluejacket's clothes they were stirred 
to their depths. Over sixty lads presented them- 
selves for enrolment at the first meeting ; and a 
day or so later the first hundred mark had been 

Then came a check. It was provided by the 
Admiralty. In the House of Commons, in the 
late days of July, Mr. McKenna was asked 
whether an application for the loan of two seven- 
pounder guns for the Cardiff Naval Brigade had 
been refused by his department on the ground 
that no guns were available for supply ; whether 
guns had been lent to volunteer Naval Brigades 
in other localities, including those of inland 
towns ; under what conditions guns and rifles 
were supplied ; and, in view of the maritime 
importance of the chief town in South Wales, 
and the fact that 115 cadets and 60 artificers 
had already been enrolled in the Cardiff Naval 
Brigade and the desirability of affording encour- 


agement to the movement, would he reconsider 
the Cardiff application ? 

Mr. McKenna, in a written answer, said the 
reply to the first and second points of the question 
was in the affirmative. With regard to the third 
point, if the status of the organisation was satis- 
factory, suitable guns were lent when available, 
according to priority of application. Rifles were 
lent to the Lads' Brigades by the Admiralty. 
As to the fourth part, no suitable guns were 
available, the stock being entirely exhausted. A 
number of applications from other towns had also 
been refused. 

It was a decided set-back, but the ardour of 
the organiser of the Brigade was not in the least 
damped. He provided substitutes for the guns 
that were not forthcoming, and recruits con- 
tinued to roll in. But some of the newspapers, 
whilst cordially recommending the Naval Brigade, 
were for ever harping on the loss that the City 
Council had sustained. 

His new work (said one) may well act as 
ample compensation for his vacated seat on the 
Corporation, though it is still hoped that the 
needs of the city will call the ex-member for 
the South Ward back to his work in Cathays 
Park. Cardiff is not too well served with men 
of the type of Mr. Nicholl, who was ever a 
terror to weak-kneed officials and indifferent 
servants of the municipality. However, no one 


is anxious to fall into his place until November, 
and the City Council must remain weakened 
until the fireworks month arrives. 

The first outdoor parade was held on the 12th 
August, 1910. The Brigade was then 160 strong 
despite the fact that it was only a month old 
and the youngsters made a brave display as they 
marched through the streets, headed by their own 
brass band. 

Referring to the parade, and the action of the 
Admiralty in refusing guns, the " Express " 
said : 

It is to be hoped that Mr. Edward Nicholl 
and his friends who are helping to provide a 
strong contingent for the Cardiff district will 
not be discouraged by this absurd disregard of 
one of the strongest needs of the country, but 
that, in spite of the drawback, the Brigade 
will go on until the thousand members are 

Mr. Nicholl, so far from being discouraged, was 
never more cheery. The time he had previously 
given to the City Council was now devoted to 
training the lads, and it wasn't long before 
Cardiff became quite accustomed to the spectacle 
of a smart band of youngsters marching through 
its streets. In September the membership was 
250, and in that month excellent premises were 
secured in the St. Mary's Hall, at the rear of the 


Morgan Arcade. By then there was a new 
artificer section composed entirely of engineer's 
apprentices. They were the special pride of 
Commander Nicholl ; it was he, indeed, who 
entertained and instructed them with lectures on 
naval engineering, aerial navigation, wireless 
telegraphy, and kindred subjects. 

By December the numbers had swelled to 
nearly three hundred, and in that month the first 
church parade service was held at St. John's 
Parish Church. Just before Christmas the first 
annual dinner took place at the Golden Cross 
Hotel, Custom House Street, the principal 
speakers being Commander Nicholl and Chief 
Constable McKenzie. 

The founder thought the time had now arrived 
to issue a balance-sheet. It was circulated on 
Christmas Eve, and contained the information 
that two hundred rifles and signal flags had been 
purchased, that a hall (already much too small) 
had been rented and furnished at 100 per annum, 
and that, in addition, a brass band of twenty- 
eight members had been fully equipped and 
clothed, and that there was also a complete 
ambulance section. The income and expenditure 
account from the 21st July to the 15th December 
showed that the income (made up mainly of dona- 
tions) was 444 2s. 3d., and that the expenditure 
was 456 9s. lOd. 

All that needs to be added is that many of 


these lads, who were trained when war seemed 
very far away, rendered signal service to their 
country when the German Emperor and his 
countrymen ran amok. As the founder of the 
Brigade remarked to me on one occasion : 
" When I asked Mr. Churchill, then First Lord 
of the Admiralty, to give me a gun or lend me a 
gun for the Cardiff Naval Brigade it was then 
the best-equipped organisation of its kind in the 
country, with its 250 boys and instructors, and 
its band of 35 he said that boys were not 
wanted, and that the Navy was sufficiently 
recruited from the various training ships. He 
did want them later. Almost every member of 
the Cardiff Naval Brigade joined up when the 
call came." 

But to return for a moment to the steady pro- 
gress of the " Hall " Line. In 1909 and 1910 the 
" Windsor Hall " and the " Standish Hall " were 
acquired. The " Welbeck Hall " was sold, and 
a new one of the same name contracted for. In 
July, 1911, came a shipping strike. It was made 
memorable by many violent scenes, but just be- 
fore it was settled a quite noteworthy tribute was 
paid to Mr. Nicholl. Captain Tupper, of the 
Seamen's Union, declared that the head of the 
" Hall " Line had proposed a minimum wage of 
5 for seamen at the meeting of the Cardiff Ship- 
owners' Association, when a rate of 4 10s. was 
fixed. He had had occasion, he remarked, to 


attack Mr. Nicholl, and he wished now, in fair- 
ness to that gentleman, to announce publicly that 
Mr. Nicholl had stuck out, though unsuccessfully, 
for a decent wage. 

Let me tell a strike story of my own. It was 
related to me by one who was very much con- 
cerned in a certain arbitration at Cardiff some 
years ago. The two sides had met to try to come 
to some arrangement. Hours and hours had been 
spent in fruitless argument, until at last an 
absolute deadlock was reached. The meeting 
was on the point of breaking up when Mr. Edward 
Nicholl stalked into the room. 

" What's all this damned nonsense ? 5! he 
ejaculated. He had come a long way to get rid 
of his explosive statement and, as usual, he had 
the facts of the case at his finger-tips. " What's 
all this damned nonsense ? " he repeated, glaring 
at the employers' representatives. " Give the 
men what they want. They're entitled to it. 
Then we'll all go and have lunch ! " 

And it was given, there and then. Cardiff was 
probably saved that day from one of the worst 
strikes in its history. There are certain people 
who still think that the man who saved the 
position on that occasion would have made an 
excellent arbitrator. Having noted his efforts 
on other occasions, I am inclined to subscribe 
to the opinion. In any case, the art of arbi- 
tration would have gained in breeziness, as well 


as in something that may best be described as 

The year 1911 was one of the quietest in the 
shipowner's career. He did the maximum of 
work in his office, but his appearances in the lime- 
light of public affairs were few and far between. 
It is on record, however, that he spent a lot of 
money at a Cardiff Baby Show. In addition to 
his other donations, he gave half a sovereign to 
everybody who did not win a prize. This un- 
common sympathy with the unsuccessful happens, 
to my certain knowledge, to be one of his speciali- 
ties. I was once forced to stand in a damp field 
in Cornwall while he wrote out cheques for every 
band in a competition that had failed to win a 
prize ! 

In 1912 he was elected President of the Cardiff 
Shipowners' Association, and in the same year he 
succumbed after holding out valiantly to the 
motor-car craze. It was said that he shared with 
Mr. Charles Radcliffe the distinction of being the 
only shipowner in Cardiff without a car. Both 
surrendered at about the same time. 

The aimlessness of the youth of Cardiff again 
appealed to him, and he lent his assistance to a 
movement that was designed to provide tie 
metropolis of Wales with a training-ship. It wa \ 
about this time, too, that he became interestec 
in agriculture ; at any rate, I have a photograph 
before me of the Committee of the Cardiff Agri- 


cultural Society, and Mr. Edward Nicholl, as the 
President, is in the dead centre of the front row, 
with the late Mr. F. H. Gaskell on his right and 
Mr. Illtyd Thomas on his left. There is an old 
adage that when sailors find themselves at a loose 
end they turn to farming. It has come true 
in this case. One of my clearest memories is of 
an ex-drummer boy building a chicken house 
down Shepperton way. He knows a cow when 
he sees one, too ; but chickens are the things 
that are nearest to his heart after children, of 

To remind his friends that he was a Cornish- 
man, Edward Nicholl gave a dinner in October 
of 1912. It is still talked about by the fortunate 
people who were there. It was to celebrate his 
appointment as President of the Cardiff Cornish 
Society. The newspapers gave it columns, and 
it was not until the reports of the function 
appeared that it was discovered that Cardiff was 
peopled with Cornishmen who had made good. 
There was Mr. Nicholl, of Pool and Redruth ; Mr. 
John Cory, J.P., of Padstow ; Mr. Newton, of 
Liskeard ; Mr. John Chellew, of Falmouth ; Mr. 
Chenalls, of St. Just ; Dr. Mitchell Stevens, of 
St. Ives; Mr. H. A. Griffen, of St. Austell ; 
Councillor Pethybridge, of Launceston ; Mr. 
Herbert Cory (now Sir James Herbert Cory, M.P.), 
of Padstow ; and Mr. G. C. Downing, Col. Hand- 


cock, Dr. Blight, and Mr. F. S. Higman. They 
were all at the banquet, together with other 
notables like the Lord Mayor of Cardiff (Sir John 
Courtis), Sir William Treloar, Sir William Dunn, 
Alderman Lewis Morgan, Mr. R. S. Read (Mayor 
of St. Ives), Mr. A. B. Lyne (Mayor of Bodmin), 
Mr. W. J. Tatem (now Lord Glanely), Mr. Lynn 
Thomas, Mr. J. L. Wheatley (Town Clerk of 
Cardiff), Sir William Grossman, Mr. Dan Rad- 
cliffe, Alderman C. H. Bird, the late Lord 
Rhondda, Alderman Richards, Alderman Trounce 
Mr. Richard Cory, and very many others. In fact, 
it was the biggest function of its kind Cardiff had 
known. Over 530 guests sat down to a dinner of 
Cornish delicacies Cornish pasties (despatched 
that very morning by special train from Red- 
ruth) of course being on top of the list in capital 

But let the menu speak for itself. It was a 
booklet, really, for the first two pages were given 
over to pictures depicting the Pier-head, Cardiff ; 
the City Hall, Cardiff ; University College, 
Cardiff ; Richard Trevithick, his engines, the 
first trial of Trevithick's locomotive in London 
in 1808 ; and a twentieth-century six-coupled 
G.W.R. Co.'s express engine of 1912. Next came 
the programme of music, which was performed 
by the Redruth String Band, who were specially 
brought over for the occasion ; and then followed 


a list of things that were eatable and drinkable, 
as follows : 

Sherry : 




Claret : 

Chateau Palmer 

Champagne : 
Cliquot 1904. 
Bellinger 1904. 


Dows 1896. 

Liqueurs : 

Grande Chartreuse. 




Ginger Ale. 

Helford Oysters. 

Clear Newquay Soup. 
Porthscado Broth. 

Mevagissey Pilchards. 
St. Ives Turbot, Carbis Bay 

CORNISH PASTIES (despatched 
from Redruth this morning). 

Bodmin Beef. Brown Willy 

Falmouth Chicken and Boiled 


Roast Cam Brea Pheasant. 
Dressed Dolcoath Salad and Tin- 
croft Chips. 

Bolitho Junket and Cornish 

Redruth Jelly. 

Cornish Ice Pudding. 
Dessert. Coffee. 

The next page gave the list of toasts the King, 
the Duke of Cornwall, the County of Cornwall 
(responded to by Mr. Thurston C. Peters), the 


City and Port of Cardiff, and the Visitors. Then 
a list of singers who were again specially im- 
ported with songs all redolent of the delectable 
Duchy. Mr. Maynard (Redruth) sang " Tre- 
lawney " and " The Cornish Land " ; Miss Irene 
Ellis (Lizard), " In the West Countree " and " In 
Praise of Cornwall " ; Miss Freda Hoskins, 
"Cornwall" and "Watchman"; Mr. W. H. 
Juleff (Redruth), " One and All " and " Pasties 
and Cream." The Male Quartette (St. Ives), 
" Comrades in Arms " and " When the Tide 
comes in " ; and Mr. G. F. Thomas Peter 
(Perran-ar-Worthal) and Mr. Kitto gave recita- 
tions. Another page was devoted to Cornish 
choruses, and the remainder of the booklet to 
the names of guests. Occupying the chair was 
Mr. Edward Nicholl, R.N.R. He saw to it that 
a little Welsh atmosphere was provided by en- 
gaging a number of young ladies to distribute the 
cigars and cigarettes. All were dressed in correct 
Welsh costumes. 

It was a great evening. To start with, it was 
the President's fiftieth year. He celebrated his 
half-century in a thoroughly practical way by 
making an appeal to his guests for the Cripples' 
Home founded by Sir William Treloar, and by 
starting the collection with twenty-five guineas. 
The total amount collected, by the way, was 
121 6s. ; but this sum was later augmented by 
gifts of 10 10s. each from four gentlemen present, 


and one hundred guineas from an anonymous 

The Mayor of Bodmin a well-known journalist 
wrote a three-column article when he returned 
home. It wasn't all about the dinner, but he did 
not forget to mention that the function would 
live in his memory for the rest of his life. 
" Never," said one of the Cardiff dailies, " has 
the annual Cornish banquet been on such a 
lavish scale and attended with such success." 
The banquet, it should be added, was held in 
the famous City Hall, which was the only 
place available with sufficient accommodation. 
It was very kindly lent by the Council for the 

Mr. Nicholl spent part of the winter of 1912 
seeking the sunshine. I find his name among the 
diners at the Hotel Metropole, Monte Carlo, which 
reminds me that when he returned the rumour 
flew around the Docks that he had won some- 
thing like 90,000. The true story may be told 
now. In his hotel Mr. Nicholl met a rather 
boastful American who was for ever talking 
about his triumphs at the tables. He eventually 
prevailed upon the Cornish- Welshman to accom- 
pany him to the tables and to play as he played. 
Mr. Nicholl lost, and so did the American not 
once, but many times. It was the same next 
day, and the next, and the next. The American 
invariably had some excuse to offer, such as " this 


isn't my favourite table," or " there are too many 
people distracting my attention." 

His companion eventually became tired of all 
this, but it was against his grain to allow Monte 
Carlo or an American to get the better of him. 
He decided to see what his luck would be when 
the American was not at his side, and that even- 
ing, as on many previous occasions, the fates 
smiled on him. The amount of money he won 
was not very considerable, but before leaving the 
Casino he changed it (mentally) into centimes, 
and then it sounded quite a lot ! 

The first man he met in the hotel lobby was 
the American. Mr. Nicholl switched on his 
largest smile. 

The American became interested. 

" Been over to the tables ? " he asked. 

Mr. Nicholl nodded. The smile was larger than 

" Any luck ? " 

"Oh! fair." 

" Won a little, eh ? " 

" A trifle." 

" How much ? " 

" Eh let me see. Oh ! about thirty-four 

The American promptly flew through the door 
to spread the glad tidings. It naturally never 
occurred to him to ask whether the 34,000 repre- 
sented pounds or centimes. By the morning 


Monte Carlo was discussing the fortunate ship- 
owner from Wales who had won 50,000 at the 
tables ; by evening time the amount had jumped 
to 70,000. When Cardiff first heard about it, 
it was 90,000 ; and the man who had mentally 
changed his winnings into centimes returned home 
to find his office choked up with begging letters ! 
And down at the Docks everybody was talking 
about the " Nicholl Luck " ! 

There was a boom in shipping by the time 1913 
arrived. The " Hall " Line issued a card to the 
effect this was in January that dividends had 
been paid amounting to 25,500 on nine steamers, 
averaging 12 J per cent on an investment of 100 
in each steamer. In addition to this, 35,762 had 
been put to reserve. The profits of the " Welbeck 
Hall," however, were not included. This vessel 
was purchased on May 8th, 1907, for 11,000, and 
the profits to December 1st, 1912, were over 
16,573. She was sold for 13,500 odd, which, 
as someone said, was not bad for five years' work 
on one steamer. 

The shipping correspondent of one of the 
Cardiff papers, dealing with the boom, remarked : 
" The prosperity of the shipping trade during the 
past twelve or eighteen months has frequently 
been referred to, and the high levels which freight 
rates maintained indicate to some extent the 
phenomenal profits which have been made. 
Cardiff owners have had their full share of the 


improvement which shipping has experienced, 
and there is every prospect of freights continuing 
on a very good, although perhaps not so high, a 
level as during the past year or so. The boom 
has lasted better than was generally expected, 
and covers a longer period than the last one. 
Of course, the profits of various firms have varied 
considerably, but it is estimated that vessels 
have earned on an average for 1912 net profits 
of about 10,000 each. There are in Cardiff 
about 60 shipowning firms, and on this basis, 
reckoning the number of vessels at 350, which is 
a conservative estimate, the profits work out at 

It is worth recording that the first to prophesy 
the boom was Mr. Nicholl. In a statement issued 
to his shareholders as far back as 1910, when 
things were not too bright, he said : " There is a 
general feeling that the acute depression so long 
experienced in the shipping world is now lift- 
ing, and that before long we shall see better 

The " Maritime Review " commented on this 
as follows : 

" We sincerely hope that Mr. Nicholl will 
be as correct as usually applies with his 
manipulation of shipping property. That he 
has been, there or thereabouts, in the past 
cannot be gainsaid." 


Six months later the " Daily Mail " announced 
that the " Hall " Line, of nine steamers, had 
made a profit for the year ended in June of 
112,742, which worked out at 12,500 per 

Almost every day the papers were commenting 
on the readiness with which Mr. Nicholl gave 
friendless boys a start in life. There was a lad 
named George Wilson, sixteen years of age, who 
walked from Liverpool to Cardiff. Mr. Nicholl 
gave him a berth on one of his ships. Another 
boy appeared at the local police-court to answer 
a charge of playing pitch-and-toss. A day later 
Chief Inspector Bingham told the magistrates 
that Mr. Nicholl had come forward with an offer 
to fit the lad out entirely and to give him a chance 
in life on one of his vessels. The boy, who eagerly 
accepted the offer, was discharged. This kind of 
thing was practical charity it appealed to the 
public mind ; but hardly a day went by but that 
Mr. Nicholl was asked to subscribe to something 
or another, or to do a good turn to someone who 
had fallen by the wayside. 

He gave cups to boating clubs, both in Cardiff 
and Cornwall to which county he was now turn- 
ing more and more ; he several times bore the 
whole of the expense of the outing of 250 children 
from Nazareth House. He renewed his offer of 
prizes to students at the Cardiff Technical Schools, 
and he did lots more that was never heard of. 


By the middle of 1913 the "Hall" Line 
owned ten vessels. Some idea of the profits 
made up to this time may be gathered from 
this statement, which, as usual, was sent to 
shareholders : 


Eaton Hall " . 
Whateley Hall " 
Grindon Hall " 
Tredegar Hall " 
Silksworth Hall " 
Welbeck Hall " 
Haigh Hall " . 
Windsor Hall " 
Standish Hall " 
Cardiff Hall " 

Per cent 























































221,500 293,833 

It should be remembered that each vessel was 
owned by a separate company and that the 
original cost of the steamers, which had a dead- 
weight carrying capacity of 70,850 tons, was 

July 10th, 1913, was Alexandra Day at Cardiff. 
It was the first of its kind. One of the rose sellers 
was the Lady Mayoress of Cardiff, and to her 
Mr. Nicholl handed a cheque for one hundred 
guineas in exchange for a little pink paper 

The following letter was received by the Lord 


Mayor of Cardiff (Alderman Morgan Thomas) a 
week or so later : 


July 26th, 1913. 

I am desired by Queen Alexandra to thank 
you for your letter of the 23rd inst. regarding the 
results of the celebration of " Alexandra Day " 
at Cardiff upon the 10th inst., and to say how 
pleased and interested Her Majesty is to hear that 
the efforts of the Lady Mayoress and the Ladies 
of your City have been so successful. 

The fact that so substantial a sum is to be 
handed over to the King Edward VII Hospital 
and to the Institution of the Poor Cripples' 
Society is most satisfactory, and must be very 
gratifying to all those who have by their devoted 
and unselfish work done so much to assist the 
Lady Mayoress and her Committee in the great 
cause of Charity. 

Her Majesty hears with much interest of Mr. 
Edward NicholPs most generous donation to the 

I am, etc., 

Private Secretary. 

In January, 1914, the Cardiff and Bristol 
Channel Shipowners' Association elected Mr. 
Nicholl their Chairman. It was a deserved 
honour, but even now, as head of one of the most 


prosperous shipping firms in the country, he was 
inclined to hanker after the days when he tinkered 
with steam-engines. He still says that a loco- 
motive fascinates him as much as anything else 
in the world. But it was a child who put into his 
head the idea of building a model railway in his 
garden. The boy wanted a puffer train, and it 
was immediately supplied. It did not, however, 
satisfy the child's mind ; what he desired was 
" a great, big, long puffer train." It was that 
phrase that brought into being one of the most 
complete miniature railways ever built. 

The track was an elevated one, running around 
the rustic portion of the grounds at " The Nook," 
Mr. Nicholls' house near Roath Lake, Cardiff. It 
was a little over 200 ft. in length. The starting- 
point was the summer-house, designated Cardiff, 
and stations en route represented Newport, Severn 
Tunnel, Chepstow, Gloucester, Bristol, Stapleton 
Road, Magor, Marshfield, and Roath. There 
were bridges and tunnels galore, and in some 
places the track was an actual model of structures 
over which a train would pass. 

No detail was omitted. This, in itself, was 
typical of Mr. Nicholl. " If you are doing a job, 
do it well," happens to be one of his favourite 
sayings. There were turn-tables, water tanks, 
signals, telegraph wires, height gauges, level in- 
dicators, buffer stops, cattle lairs, and electric 
lamps. The train itself was a magnificent model. 


It generated its own steam motive-power, and 
besides passenger coaches there were guards' vans, 
tar waggons, oil tanks, lime trucks, and even a 
miniature stock of coal. In the main stations 
there were milk churns and a variety of other 
things common to a railway platform, whilst even 
familiar advertisements had not been omitted. 
The sleepers were the real creosoted kind, with 
chairs, and the brass rails were fixed in position 
with tiny wedges. Many months were occupied 
in constructing the novelty, and it need hardly 
be said that it gave pleasure, not only to the 
many youngsters who gazed wide-eyed at it, but 
to those of an older generation who happened to 
be guests at " The Nook." 

In March of 1914 Mr. Nicholl led a movement 
that had as its main idea the construction of a 
new dock at Cardiff. But he was principally 
occupied at this period in again fighting a pro- 
posal he had been up against it in earlier days 
to lay up steamers so that freight rates might be 
improved. There had been another slump in 
rates, and the old-fashioned scheme of laying up 
a proportion of tonnage had once more been 
pushed into the foreground. 

Mr. Nicholl fought it tooth and nail. He stuck 
to his opinion that, as shipowners were respon- 
sible for bringing their tonnage into being, they 
were responsible for it when the lean periods 
arrived. His own firm possessed modern boats, 


and they had all proved most remunerative to 
the shareholders. The previous depression had 
been successfully weathered, and, for himself, he 
was content to face the lean period with equa- 
nimity. He instanced the fact that the vessels of 
the " Hall " Line were chartered right up to 
April, in which month freight rates would prob- 
ably improve owing to the opening of the Baltic 
and other trades. 

' Why should a firm which possesses new boats, 
and the ability to run them at a profit to the 
shareholders, be compelled to submit to a tax to 
support older boats which would lay up boats 
which would earn more by laying up, and by 
being indemnified, than they would by being in 
active commission ? " he asked. " It is all a 
question of competition, ability, and capital. 
Some owners can run successfully through de- 
pressions, while others, through the age of their 
boats and through financial circumstances, find 
it impossible. My firm will not ask for alms even 
if the depression becomes more acute. I am quite 
confident of the future. At the present time my 
boats are able to pay good dividends for the 
shareholders. It is all a question of the survival 
of the fittest. I have no faith in laying-up 
schemes. Besides, if other shipowners cannot 
proceed, why should I be compelled to pay for 
their sustenance ? " 
Mr. Nicholl was by no means alone in this view. 

He was supported by, among others, Sir Burton 
Chad wick (Chairman of the Liverpool Ship- 
owners' Association, and head of Messrs. Joseph 
Chadwick & Sons), Mr. T. P. Harrison (Messrs. 
Rankin, Gilmour & Co.), Mr. J. Howard Glover 
(Mercantile Steamship Company), Mr. J. F. 
Wilson (West Hartlepool), Major Hopkins (Weid- 
ner Hopkins, Newcastle), and many others. In 
fact, the majority of shipowners held the same 
view as Mr. Nicholl. Liverpool, in particular, was 
dead against the project, and so was Glasgow. 
The scheme naturally died a natural death when 
the war came. 

Prior to that, however (in November, 1913), a 
new company was started, called The Nicholl 
Steamships, Limited. It was formed with a 
capital of 150,000, in l shares, to acquire the 
steamers " Westoe Hall," "Bland Hall," and 
" Albert Hall," then building. Messrs. Edward 
Nicholl & Co. were the first Directors and Mana- 
gers. The company was really in addition to the 
ten single companies under the control of Messrs. 
Edward Nicholl & Co. These had a capital of 
more than half a million pounds, so that the total 
capital of the firm, with the new company, was 
over 700,000. When it is remembered that the 
first vessel of the Cardiff " Hall " Line which 
now numbered thirteen was started in 1904, 
some idea of the progress made will be obtained. 
In addition to sums set aside, dividends averaging 


over 10 per cent had been paid. Mr. NicholFs 
ambition now was to build up a large fleet of 
steamers under the title of The Nicholl Steam- 
ship Co., Ltd. 

The " Maritime Review " as was only natural 
under the circumstances gave itself a pat on 
the back by publishing, on "July 17th, 1914, 
the following : 


Never mind worrying with the poetical phase 
of the subject. On this occasion we haven't 
time. But harking back over the past, we note 
that, on February 17th, 1904, we wrote : 

" There is an old saw which says : ' He will 
never set the Thames on fire,' and it is generally 
used in a contemptuous sense, as expressing the 
belief that the ' he ' referred to will never do 
very much for himself nor for anyone else. 
The old lilt, however, can never be fairly used 
in connection with Mr. Edward Nicholl." 

There you are, and recent happenings em- 
phasise the fact that, if you see it in these 
columns yes, it is so ! What are the recent 
happenings ? Why, the registration of Nicholl 
Steamships, Ltd., and of which the dominating 
genius is yes, the same Mr. Edward Nicholl. 
. . . Wherefore, the old lilt referred to above 
may not be used in connection with Teddie of 
that ilk. It's nice to be able to say " We told 
you so." It is also somewhat gratifying to 


know that, in our earlier endeavour, we did 
not give approbation to that which the vulgar 
style a " stumer." 

And then came the war and with it what is 
perhaps the most interesting period of Mr. 
NicholPs life. 


I do love 

My country's good, with a respect more tender, 
More holy, and profound, than mine own life. 


ON August 1st, 1914, Mr. Nicholl was Chair- 
man of the Shipowners' Association and 
one of the largest shipowners in the West of 
England. He was head of the Cardiff " Hall " 
Line and of Nicholl Steamships, Ltd. The fleet 
represented practically 100,000 tons dead weight, 
and had cost over half a million. Here is the list 

of ships : 

Tons dead Cost. 
Steamer. weight. 

" Whateley Hall " . . 6,400 34,500 

" Eaton Hall " . . 6,400 34,500 

44 Tredegar Hall " . . 6,400 34,500 

44 Grindon Hall " . . 6,400 34,500 

44 Silksworth Hall " . 8,250 45,500 

44 Haigh Hall " . . 7,112 45,500 

44 Cardiff Hall " . . 8,200 37,750 

" Welbeck Hall " . . 7,500 57,500 

44 Westoe Hall " . . 6,500 52,600 

44 Windsor Hall " . . 8,200 31,500 

44 Bland Hall " . . 8,200 57,500 

44 Albert Hall " . . 8,200 56,500 

" Standish Hall " . . 7,200 37,750 

95,012 560,100 


In addition, there had been bought two second- 
hand steamers, whilst one new one which was 
afterwards replaced had been lost. The grand 
total of dead-weight tonnage was therefore 
107,500 ; the capital totalled 620,000. And all 
in ten years ! And all, let it be emphasised, off 
Mr. NicholPs own bat. The latter is the point to 
keep in the mind. As the achievement of a long 
life the result would be remarkable ; as a ten 
years' effort it is positively amazing. 

Mr. Nicholl went into the war with the same 
energy that he had displayed in earlier days on 
the Cardiff City Council. He offered himself in 
any capacity ; at fifty-two he was quite ready to 
shoulder a pack or help to stoke a warship. He 
was almost immediately appointed Deputy Chief 
Examining Officer for the Bristol Channel, and 
on the 21st August he was nominated to serve on 
the Board of Arbitration ordered by the Royal 
Proclamation of August 3rd to deal with matters 
arising out of the requisition by the Government 
of vessels for the Government service. 

That he did the work of examination well is 
evidenced by the fact that within a month or so 
he was appointed Chief Examining Officer and 
Commander of the Bristol Channel Examination 
Service. For three years he led a life that was 
strenuous in the extreme. As he himself graphic- 
ally puts it, he was in his job up to his neck, and 
the newspapers of the period pay testimony to 


To face paye 134 


the thoroughness of his methods. In July, 1917, 
alone, he and his officers examined, spoke to, gave 
signals to, or passed up 1392 vessels. From 
August, 1914, to September, 1917, he and his 
officers dealt with over 55,000 vessels. But the 
complete table explains everything. Here it is : 


Vessels boarded, examined or spoken, given 
signals, and passed up for Bristol, Avonmouth, 
Portishead, Cardiff, Barry, Newport, Penarth, 
and Sharpness. 

From August, 1914, to September, 1917. 

Vessels. Total Number. 

British .... 36,683 

Norwegian . . . 6,374 

French .... 4,937 

Spanish . . . 1,871 

Greek .... 1,567 

Italian .... 886 

Swedish . . . 689 

Dutch .... 465 

Belgian . . . . 524 

Danish .... 548 

Russian . . . 446 

Portuguese . . . 150 

American . . . 81 

Uruguayan ... 38 

Japanese , - . , 51 


Vessels. Total Number. 

Roumanian . . 16 

Chilian .... 7 

Finnish .... 6 

Peruvian ... 2 

Brazilian ... 23 

Argentine ... 8 

Mexican ... 4 

Canadian . . . 11 

Chinese . 1 

TOTAL . . 55,388 

6-inch gun fired " bring to " rounds . 251 

12-pounder gun fired " bring to " rounds 203 

Aliens arrested or reported to Customs . 738 
Fines imposed on masters and pilots for 

disobeying Examination Service orders 607 

But chasing steamers and keeping a watchful 
look-out was only part of the job. There were 
hundreds of letters to be dealt with ; police- 
courts to be attended ; lights to be carefully re- 
garded. Some of the letters received were so 
remarkable that I can do no better than give 
samples of one or two that were addressed to 
Commander Nicholl : 


Are you aware that there is a thorough- 
bred German aboard a light- vessel in the British 
Channel ? I don't know anything about the chap 
only that he is a German, and as we are at war 


now with his country I thought you would like to 

That meant a rapid trip out to the Channel 
for nothing, it may be said. But this was the 
kind of note next to those dealing with mysteri- 
ous lights, of which there were dozens that gave 
the Examination Officer most trouble. It was 
from a pilot : 


At 11 p.m. on the night of the 5th February 
I was cruising in cutter, with the Nash lights bear- 
ing about N.W. by N. about six miles. I was just 
turned in when one of my men came down and 
told me there was a submarine close to us and to 
come up quick. I jumped up and went right on 
deck, and on the port side I saw something in the 
water, very much like the conning tower of a sub- 
marine. It appeared to be about five feet above 
the water, and seemed to be coming towards us, 
but I heard no sound from it. It suddenly 
seemed to alter its course, and disappear to the 
northward. I boarded steamer for Avonmouth 
next morning, leaving orders for the man to re- 
port what he saw, at Barry, which he did. 

Commander Nicholl suffered severely from 
people who were for ever seeing flashing lights. 
Most of them had a habit of writing him when 
dirty weather was blowing up ; he spent many 
a bad night cruising up and down the Bristol 


Channel looking for lights which sometimes 
turned out to be the real thing, but which more 
often did not. But he had his own views about 
the Examination Service strong views, as the 
following letter, written on the 21st February, 
1917, to Colonel Turner, O.C. Severn Defences, 
demonstrates : 

SIR, Examination Service. I desire to place 
on record that I am of opinion that the Examina- 
tion Service, as at present carried on at Barry, is 
very unsatisfactory, unsafe, and unprotected in 
the presence of floating mines, or when the 
battery is hidden by fog. 

Admiral Dare reported from Milford Haven on 
September 2nd, 1916, in answer to a letter of 
mine addressed to the Commander-in-Chief, 
Devonport : 

" That he did not consider it necessary to 
station one of H.M. ships at Cardiff, for the 
protection of the upper reaches of the Bristol 
Channel. Since taking over the command of this 
area, there has not been any report of an enemy 
vessel to the eastward of a line joining Nash 
Point and Hurtstone Point ; at any rate, nothing 

We now have something to report that must 
be considered very reliable, viz. the discovery of 
mines laid quite 12 miles to the east of Nash 
Point, and the presence reported of an enemy 
submarine above the Nash, and considerable loss 


of life from enemy mines. Two mines that were 
recently seen floating could not be destroyed for 
the want of a firearm. The examination steamers 
are not even now (they were at first) provided 
with a rifle in case of emergency to destroy a 
mine or repel an attack, and the patrol steamer 
" Saxon " does not carry a signaller. I regret, 
therefore, as Chief Examination Officer, to report 
as above, and to request that two signallers, at 
least, with rifles, should be carried on the 
" Saxon," and the present signallers on the two 
examination steamers " Ilona " and " Sylvia " 
provided with rifles. 

In addition, it is desirable that a boat carry- 
ing a useful gun, and able to keep the sea 
in all weathers, should be sent to patrol the 
upper reaches of the Bristol Channel, above the 

Unless the above precautions are adopted I am 
apprehensive that a further and more serious 
calamity will happen. 

A month or so before this Commander Nicholl 
had communicated direct with the Commander- 
in- Chief at Plymouth several remarks were, I 
believe, addressed to him for daring to do such a 
thing but he felt so strongly on the subject that 
he believed it was his duty to go to the fountain 
head. His letter read : 

SIR, A 'phone message from Commander 
Brown, Swansea, this afternoon requests me to 


report on the best place for resting and storing 
three petrol patrol boats, which he is considering 
sending to this examination area for watching the 
Channel south of the Breaksea Lightship. I 
would suggest that these craft are very costly 
and unsuitable for this service, owing to the strong 
tides, and the very exceptional weather in the 
Channel during the winter would compel them to 
seek shelter half the time. 

We should welcome a warship that could keep 
the sea in all weather, and consider such protec- 
tion should have been stationed this side of the 
Nash from the outbreak of war. I am informed 
the Cardiff Chamber of Commerce are holding a 
meeting to-morrow to petition the Admiralty on 
this matter. 

I shall be glad to know, Sir, if in addition to 
my examination duties you desire me to take any 
part in the working or storing of the craft referred 
to by Commander Brown. I consider petrol boats 
entirely unsuitable, both in size and armament, 
to afford the necessary protection for the enor- 
mous coal, docks, and shipping interests at 
Cardiff, Barry, Newport, and Bristol. 

We are now paying twenty-two thousand 
pounds per annum for the three examination 
steamers, and I most respectfully submit that 
any further expense should now be in the direc- 
tion of more reliable and adequate protection, 
which cannot possibly be unless we have a war- 
ship that can keep at sea under all weather 


The reply of Admiral Dare, to whom the 
question was referred, is worth giving. He 

1. I have not had any official intimation that 

motor boats are to be attached to the Naval 
Base at Swansea, but have heard from Com- 
mander Brown verbally that it is the inten- 
tion of their Lordships to station twelve of 
the craft at his base. 

2. With regard to the remarks of Commander Sir 

Edward Nicholl, R.N.V.R., the following 
observations are made in reply to your 
minute : 

3. I do not consider it necessary to station one of 

H.M. ships at Cardiff for the protection of 
the upper reaches of the Bristol Channel. 
Since taking over the command of this area 
(Feb. 15th) there has not been any report 
of the presence of an enemy vessel to the 
eastward of a line joining Nash Point and 
Hurtstone Point at any rate, nothing re- 

4. The motor boats are not considered good sea 

boats, but they might prove useful in these 
upper reaches, where they could obtain 
shelter in an emergency. 

5. The motor boats will, of course, receive their 

orders from the S.N.O. Swansea, and I 
understand that the only point at issue is 
the question of a supply of petrol at Cardiff 
for these boats working in that district. 


6. The Examination Service, with which Sir 

Edward Nicholl is concerned, does not 
appear to be the proper department for 
undertaking any measures in connection 
with these boats. 

7. The question of maintaining stocks of petrol 

will, in a great measure, depend upon the 
dispositions of these twelve boats. From 
what I can gather, it is the intention of the 
S.N.O. Swansea, to work them from four 
different ports (sub-bases). Until this is 
definitely settled it is not possible to venture 
any suggestion with regard to the mainten- 
ance of supplies. It may be considered 
necessary to have four different depots, but 
I imagine that the necessary stocks will be 
maintained by means of tank cars on rails. 
It is presumed that the Admiralty will 
arrange (after consultation with the re- 
sponsible authorities) for adequate sup- 

That, of course, was nothing more than an 
invitation to Commander NicholPs fighting strain. 
He proved, beyond doubt, that he was right ; but 
it cannot be said, with truth, that he got all that 
he wanted. At this same time he was much con- 
cerned on account of the fact that many news- 
papers were publishing the movements of 
steamers, especially those homeward bound. He 
addressed the following characteristic letter to 
Sir Joseph Maclay, the Controller of Shipping : 


In the early days of the war the attention of 
newspaper editors all over the country was called 
to the danger of publishing the " Movements of 
Shipping," and for a time the leading papers 
refrained from publishing " Shipping Move- 
ments." Now, alas ! and for what reason no one 
seems to know, vital information is at the enemy's 
disposal East or West, North or South, we in- 
form them of the near approach of a liner or 

I have before me a London halfpenny paper, 
and it gives the dates of sailings from various 
ports of homeward bound steamers to the number 
of at least a dozen. Any sailor will inform you 
when the steamers should pass a given point. 
The value of these steamers and their cargoes 
would be about five millions at to-day's prices, 
and we are so ill advised as to give this in- 
formation to the enemy. Most of these sailings 
are about December the . . . , time enough to 
allow a submarine to go from Germany to meet 

Where is the Censor ? Who is responsible ? 
What folly madness is perhaps the better term ! 
Recently we were all informed that the Govern- 
ment had purchased huge quantities of grain in 
India and Australia. Are we going to inform the 
enemy what these sailing dates are ? 

No one to-day would willingly risk the lives of 
those on board, not counting ship and cargo, just 
to read that " blank " steamer had sailed from 
.... to . . on . 


Some short time ago a submarined crew that I 
assisted to land stated that the commander of 
the submarine said that he knew they were 
coming, and handed some papers to the master 
of the steamer in which the date of his steamer's 
sailing was mentioned. Need more be said ? 
Surely we owe the officers, engineers, sailors, and 
firemen of the great Mercantile Marine more con- 
sideration, not to mention passengers, and the 
various units of soldiers and sailors joining up 
from all over the world. 

By the publication we risk all we gain nothing. 

In the new Government there is still an office 
to be filled, and a very necessary one, viz. 
a Censor of Shipping Movements, and I would 
suggest it be forbidden to allow the " Movements 
of Steamers' arrivals, or Sailings and Steamers in 
Dock " to be published sent all over the world 
for the sometimes certain benefit of the enemy, 
and too often cause the loss of many valuable 
lives, ship, and cargo during the period of the 

That, again, had the desired effect. But by 
then the submarine menace had become a very 
real one. Commander Nicholl prepared a docu- 
ment that not only dealt with the whole question, 
but offered practical suggestions. After showing 
the percentage of aliens carried on several cargo 
vessels, the document continued : 



1. LOOK-OUT. At present unreliable. 
Aliens in f c'sle deck ratings are quite 50%. 

The LOOK-OUT watch should be divided. 
Half-hour duration only, and from a crow's- 
nest on the foremast, or other fitting, the 
same as on whale ships. 

A GOOD REWARD paid for sighting a peri- 
scope, if in time to avoid damage. (This 
reward is always paid on whale ships for 
sighting a whale.) 

submarine avoided ; and 5000 to be divided 
amongst the crew to sink or capture a sub- 

2. Issue letters of marque (if not roving commis- 

sion), preferably to British R.N.R. men ; 
give them suitable armed trawler. 

" Flower " class sloop under any flag, any- 
how ; allow them to draw stores and 
munitions Madeira, Azores, Portugal, Gib- 
raltar, etc., and pay a BIG REWARD for de- 
struction of enemy submarine. Reward to 
be paid by lays (per cent to crew), say up 
to 10,000. A decoration is good, but to the 
sailor 500 as his share will result in a keener 
look-out and a better fighting spirit. 


3. DARKENING SHIP. Extremely careless at pre- 

sent, and a much more serious view should 
be taken. Inspection made before leaving 
port and inspection at sea by an officer at 
the end of each watch. Many seamen are of 
opinion that navigation lights put out are all 
that is required. Vessels are otherwise often 
too brilliantly lighted. If reliable seamen 
cannot be found for " LOOK-OUT," the 
Government should supply sight-tested 
R.N.R. men, especially in big liners and 
large cargo boats. 

4. Have we sufficient representatives of sea ex- 

perience from the Mercantile Marine at the 
Admiralty, whose view would be listened 
to ? If not, there should be. 

5. Have an efficient gun on each cargo steamer, 

not less than 4 // , to carry ten thousand yards 
(5 miles). 

6. At present Cardiff and district has no means of 

practical instruction. Chatham gunnery 
course too far and no time. We should have 
a local " Chatham Institute " nearly 50% 
of the country's tonnage comes to this 

7. There should be no work carried on, on any 

vessel's deck, when within 500 miles of 

8. Why (when with convoy) not discharge oil, 

grease, tar, fish oil, anything to blind peri- 
scope, all going astern and around for miles ? 


This would blind him and make him rise to 
clean, etc., and would certainly help to check 
his accuracy in torpedo work. 

The suggestions were so good that they were 
almost all adopted at a later date. Ships were 
darkened, rewards were offered, guns were 
mounted, and oil used to blind periscopes. 

From Commander NicholFs diary I have 
selected one or two observations which show 
clearly that he had much to contend with at this 
period. The items are as follows : 

1. Found that a German was employed on one 

of the " Trinity " boats. He was afterwards 
removed to a lightship. I reported the 
matter, but the reply was that the man 
was naturalised, and nothing was done. 

2. Discovered, after I had reported and arrested 

several ships' masters and pilots for various 
offences under the Defence of the Realm 
Act, that police-court magistrates had no 
jurisdiction over these so-called military 
matters. Military regulations did not allow 
of offenders being court-martialled. Re- 
sult nothing done. 

3. Reported to me that a man had been observed 

on a certain mud hopper intently examin- 
ing, through binoculars, the defences at 
Lavernock and Penarth. At once com- 
municated with the police, and a little later 
one of the crew of the mud hopper, who 


admitted he was a German, was arrested. 
When he was brought before the magis- 
trates he claimed that he was naturalised. 
He was discharged and, I am told, almost 
immediately rejoined the hopper. 

4. I fired at, and stopped, a steamer which tried 

to run past. Found the mate had a German 
wife. She had visited Germany three times 
during the war, and her father and brother 
were in the German Army. The man was 
charged, but the case was dismissed.. 

5. Complained of the fact that on two colliers, 

which were in touch with the fleet, there 
was a German mate who carried an English 
master's certificate, and a German fireman. 
Both naturalised, and nothing done. 

6. Boarded a Swedish steamer on arrival at 

anchorage. She reported that she was 
carrying 4000 tons of cargo. Found she 
was fitted with wireless, and that she also 
carried about 60 fathoms of mine-sweeping 
gear. Questioned the wireless operator, 
and he told me that he could hoist his 
aerials and be in working communication 
in twenty minutes at a range of 300 miles. 
I suggested putting a guard on board. The 
key of the wireless room was taken away, 
but was returned a day or so later. Nothing 

7. Reported to me that three foreigners, calling 

themselves Belgian refugees, had called at 
the Battery with a request to be shown the 

9 AUG1926 



guns, etc. They were allowed to depart in 

8. H.M.S. " Scotia " reported that shore signals 

had been observed at a point between Por- 
lock and the Foreland. The information 
was simply passed on. Nothing else done. 

9. A very impudent but naturalised German has 

made a point, from the commencement of 
the war, of sailing about in a small motor 
launch. He was eventually warned not to 
come within a certain distance of the shore. 
He paid no attention and was fired at. An 
order was also issued that his launch was 
not to leave the dock. A little later this 
man was employed with his own launch to 
do certain work which allowed him to run 
around to all the transports and fleet 
auxiliaries. The port was in a ferment, 
and when a strike was threatened the man 
was persuaded to resign. Later still he 
applied for work to the Pilotage Office, 
saying he was a British subject. The fol- 
lowing week, when I went down to the 
dock, I saw one of the examination boats 
coming in. There was much trouble on 
board, because the German had been taken 
on as one of the crew. All the men of the 
Patrol Service threatened to strike, and I 
immediately told the German to go ashore. 
When I reported the matter subsequently, 
the reply I got was that nothing could be 


10. Discovered that a naturalised German was 

living on one of the Bristol Channel islands. 
Four coastguards, with signalling appa- 
ratus and expensive lights, have now been 
sent to the island, apparently to watch this 
one man. 

11. Told to-day that, after examining a Swedish 

steamer, one of my officers had a bucket of 
hot ashes thrown over him. He, too, heard 

this remark : " Good-bye, you ! 

When next we return, the German flag will 

be flying over this country ! " Are 

we fighting the war with kid gloves on ? 

In June, 1917, Commander Nicholl felt that the 
needs of his country were so great that he could 
do better work outside the Examination Service. 
He therefore addressed the following letter to the 
Officer Commanding Severn Defences : 


Examination Service. The Service in 
Barry Roads is now so well established that my 
duties have become simply of a routine character, 
and almost entirely clerical, more especially since 
the arrival of armed drifters, trawlers, and M.L.'s 
in this area. 

I am of opinion that my services could be better 
employed in the national interest in many other 
directions, and the duties of my present office 
now almost negligible could be carried on by the 
Officer in Charge of the Battery or the Officer in 
Charge of the Trawlers. 


I am therefore tendering my resignation after 
practically three years' service, during which time 
over fifty thousand vessels have been examined 
and passed up through the Barry Roads. 

I beg you will forward my request, and release 
me as soon as possible. 

The resignation was eventually accepted, but 
before that happened the following letters were 

Captain W. J. Down, R.N., wrote from the 
Naval Base, Swansea : 

I deeply regret to hear from the Officer Com- 
manding Cardiff and Barry Garrison that you 
have been obliged to resign your appointment as 
Chief Examination Officer. May I be permitted 
to express my high appreciation of the most ex- 
cellent services you have rendered to the country 
during the time you have held this appointment. 

General Sir Pitcairn Campbell wrote from 
Government House, Chester : 

You will by this time have had the letter about 
your resigning your appointment. I shall be very 
sorry to lose your valuable help and must thank 
you so much for all you have done. If we ever 
want your advice, I feel sure you won't mind our 
asking it. 

Colonel Marindin, of the Severn Command, 
sent this note from the Wilton Hotel, London : 


I was very sorry not to see you before my 
hurried departure from Cardiff so as to be able 
to thank you for all the work you did in connec- 
tion with the Examination Service. It really was 
of the greatest value to me, for it saved me having 
to do it myself at a time when, as you know, I 
was a good deal overworked. 

From what I saw of the Examination Service 
when I was at Barry, the smooth way in which 
the whole thing was working was chiefly due to 
your labour. 

I would have written earlier, but, as you will 
understand, one is pretty busy taking over a new 
and somewhat difficult job. 

Again many thanks, and the best of luck. 

It was then suggested that the retiring Exami- 
nation Officer was entitled to the Royal Naval 
Reserve decoration. When the matter was 
brought before Colonel J. Aspinall Turner, the 
Officer Commanding the Cardiff and Barry Gar- 
rison, he at once addressed a letter to the 
Registrar-General, General Register and Record 
Office of Shipping and Seamen, London. It was 
as follows : 

Our Chief Examination Officer, Commander 
Sir Edward Nicholl, is retiring at the end of the 
present month. 

He has held the office of Examination Officer 
since the war started, and, according to your 
letter addressed to me dated December 7th, 


1916, had served 11 years 9j months in the 

He has carried out his duties here with great 
satisfaction to all concerned, is resigning after 
over three years' service, and I can highly recom- 
mend him for the decoration. 

His resignation from the R.N.R. was compul- 
sory, following his then employment. 

That started a correspondence that would have 
been funny if it had not dealt with a matter of 
importance to a considerable number of men. 
Back came a request for details. The reply 
pointed out that the applicant was appointed 
Engineer, R.N.R., on the 31st December, 1889, 
and had retired on the 17th October, 1901, and 
that his total service was 15 years 7 months. To 
this the Registrar- General said : " Time of re- 
tired service does not count as commissioned 
service required under Article 210 of the R.N.R. 
Regulations (Officers) for the decoration." Col. 
Turner then asked to be informed if the officer's 
failure to comply with the regulations was due 
to the fact that his length of service though 
sufficient in point of years had not been con- 
tinuous. The reply was in the affirmative, and a 
day or so later this letter arrived. It was 
addressed to the Colonel-Commandant, Cardiff 
and Barry Garrisons : 

With reference to your letter of the 5th hist., 
recommending Acting- Commander Sir Edward 


Nicholl for the award of the Royal Naval Reserve 
Decoration, I am requested by the Admiral Com- 
manding Coast Guard and Reserves to inform 
you that this officer's case has been fully con- 
sidered, and it is regretted that he is ineligible 
under the Royal Naval Reserve Regulations for 
the Decoration. C. JONES, Registrar-General. 

This view, however, was so contrary to general 
opinion that it was eventually decided to refer 
the matter to the Admiralty, and this letter, 
signed by Captain Grant, R.N. (Senior Naval 
Officer, Bristol Channel), was forwarded. The 
date was 13th March, 1918 : 

Acting-Comdr. Sir Edward Nicholl, R.N.V.R. 
(Engineer, R.N.R., Retd.). 

Submitted : 

1. This officer served 11 years 9j months in the 

Royal Naval Reserve. At the outbreak of 
hostilities he was appointed Chief Examining 
Officer for Bristol Channel ports, and held 
that office continuously till the end of Sep- 
tember, 1917. 

2. His Commission in the Royal Naval Volunteer 

Reserve is dated 1st February, 1915, al- 
though he commenced his duties on the 
outbreak of war. 

3. It is submitted that this officer may be speci- 

ally considered for the award of the R.N.R. 
Decoration and be allowed to count his com- 


bined service, which considerably exceeds 
the fifteen years laid down, as qualifying 
time for the R.D. 

4. It is observed that Sir Edward Nicholl was 

strongly recommended for the R.D. at the 
time of his relinquishing the appointment of 
Chief Examining Officer, but had not then 
completed fifteen years' combined service, 
this being apparently the reason for the non- 
approval of the award. 

5. His services were of the utmost value, as is 

shown by letters (copies attached) from 
various officers concerned, and, in view of 
what has come to my knowledge since 
assuming this Command, I desire to add my 
strong recommendation that the Decoration 
should be awarded to Sir Edward Nicholl as 
a special case. 

The answer from the Admiralty dated 21st 
May, 1918 was, for some reason, sent direct to 
the officer concerned. It read : 

With reference to a recommendation which has 
been received from the Senior Naval Officer, 
Bristol Channel, that you might be awarded the 
R.N.R. Officers' Decoration, I am commanded 
by my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to 
inform you that they regret that, as you have not 
served the necessary period in the Royal Naval 
Reserve, the regulations do not permit of this 
Decoration being conferred upon you. 

I am also to inform you that, as your present 


appointment on the Petrol Executive is not under 
the Admiralty, it is necessary that your tempo- 
rary commission as Acting- Commander R.N.V.R., 
which was granted in respect of your appoint- 
ment as Chief Examining Officer at Cardiff, 
should be terminated in accordance with the 
general practice. 

Your Commission has, accordingly, been termi- 
nated from the 20th inst., and I am to request 
that you will forward it to the Admiralty for 
cancellation, after which it will be returned to 
you to retain as a memento. 

I am, etc., 


Up to that time Sir Edward had not been par- 
ticularly interested. This letter, however, aroused 
the battling instinct that had been born in him. 
He made a personal application to the Admiralty, 
was told that the decision arrived at could not be 
departed from, and then wrote this letter to Dr. 
Macnamara : 

I feel more annoyed at troubling you than I do 
at the attitude taken up by your subordinates in 
positively refusing even to consider my services 
R.N.V.R. It is, to say the least, discouraging to 
a volunteer. I did not ask for any employment 
R.N.V.R. I was retired R.N.R., and, I thought, 
joined up again in that category ; and, volun- 
tarily, I am still working unpaid for Mr. Long, 
visiting Naval, Army, Air, and Civilian depts., 


trying to save petrol. This is a grievance I am 
sure you will put right. 

On the 19th June, 1918, Dr. Macnamara re- 
plied : 

I return the enclosures to your letters. I under- 
stand that the whole matter has been gone into 
afresh, and that you have been informed that the 
grant to you of the R.N.R. Officers' Decoration is 
not practicable. 

The matter ended there. But doesn't the 
correspondence rather put point to the assertion 
(it was a very favourite saying during the war) 
" that the man who does his darndest gets 
least " ? 

Sir Edward, as is only natural, has very strong 
views on the subject. I asked him, on one occa- 
sion, to give me a statement on this question of 
decorations. He wrote : 

I first became a Naval Reserve officer in 1889. 
At that time there were only thirty of us alto- 
gether, for only men with sea service and the 
highest Board of Trade certificates were eligible. 
There was, of course, no pay for this service, and 
it was a condition of enlistment that when an 
officer's business or employment was of such a 
nature that he could no longer put in his drills 
that he should send in his resignation and go on 
the retired list. After 11 1 years I found it incon- 
venient to attend drills, and therefore resigned ; 


but when the war came I threw up everything 
and offered myself in any capacity. I was, as 
you know, appointed Chief Examination Officer, 
and I gave myself body and soul to the work. I 
left my business to be carried on by my staff. 

When I reported myself at Devonport, I was 
told by Admiral Sir George Egerton with whom 
I spent the night at Admiralty House that, as 
my duties were executive and not engineering, it 
would be necessary for me to wear R.N.V.R. 
uniform, which meant the plain braided sleeve 
instead of the " crossed." That did not make 
the slightest difference to me I wore my 
R.N.V.R. uniform with pride but I was totally 
unaware at the time that it would make all the 
difference in the world when the time came for 
decorations to be awarded. 

In all, I put in 15 J years' service with the 
R.N.R. and the R.N.V.R. I believe that I was 
entitled to the decoration, but immediately it 
was applied for, the curse of the Service, red-tape, 
crept in. I have always felt, and still feel, that 
we in this country suffer from nothing so much 
as from red-tape. It is responsible for millions 
of money, millions of lives, and it gives rope to 
an amount of ineptitude, indifference, and ignor- 
ance that is appalling. Red-tape is the main 
asset of officials who have been pitchforked into 
office. It may be found everywhere : in Govern- 
ment offices, in municipal offices, and in the 
Services. Influence is too often the blood-brother 
of red-tape. Merit rarely counts. 


K ,j 

s? *- 
I a 

3 Jfl 

f S 



-3 926190V 6 


The decoration I was entitled to was not 
awarded because no precedent for such a thing 
could be found. Of course there was no prece- 
dent ! But there was no precedent for an engineer 
officer R.N.R. being placed in charge of a fleet 
of examination steamers as Executive Officer. 
R.N.V.R. was a creation of the war. The bit of 
ribbon I had earned is absolutely valueless, but 
I would have been proud to wear it, if only to 
show that for many years of my life I had served 
in the Reserve Forces. It is a great satisfaction 
to me to remember that, in addition to my 15 J 
years' service in the R.N.R. and R.N.V.R., I also 
did seven years as a volunteer. 

Red-tape strangles everything. I remember 
that during the war a tailor was appointed as a 
shell inspector. Influence got him the job. 
Another man, who I believe knew something 
about gramophones, was given an important job 
to look after petrol supplies. Again, as Sir 
Matthew Wilson stated in the House of Commons, 
a piano-tuner was appointed as an agricultural 
expert ! Red-tape is draining away the nation's 
life blood. Square plugs are fitted into round 
holes ; men who are not worth their salt are given 
important posts simply because they can pull in- 
fluential strings. The country is rotting under 
officialdom, and red-tape is the curse of every 
State department ! 

Strong words, perhaps but who will say they 
are not true ? 


I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, 
therefore, that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to 
any fellow-creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or 
neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again. ANON. 

ex-drummer boy's services were recog- 
JL nised, however. On June 3rd, 1916, he 
was knighted by his Majesty King George at 
Buckingham Palace. Congratulations poured 
down on " The Nook " in such a stream that for 
some days the new knight was overwhelmed. 
There were dozens of telegrams and hundreds of 
letters ; some of these latter must have given 
Sir Edward particular pleasure. I feel I cannot 
do better than quote a few of the more note- 
worthy. There was, for example, this communi- 
cation from the Town Clerk of Cardiff : 

I have the honour and pleasure to send you the 
following resolution unanimously passed by my 
Council on the 5th inst., viz. 

" That the heartiest congratulations of the 
City Council and the Citizens of Cardiff be ten- 
dered to Commander Sir Edward Nicholl, a 
former member of the Corporation, upon the 
honour conferred upon him by His Majesty the 



King ; and that this Council record their sin- 
cere wishes that he may be spared in health and 
strength to carry on his public work on behalf 
of the City, to the technical education and 
charities of which he has always given such 
generous and loyal support ; and on behalf of 
the nation in the service of which he has de- 
voted himself so unselfishly and patriotically. 
Permit me also to add the congratulations of 
myself and staff. 

Yours very faithfully, 


The Secretary of the British and Foreign 
Sailors' Society wrote : 

On behalf of my Board of Directors I desire to 
heartily congratulate you on the distinguished 
honour which has been bestowed on you by His 
Majesty the King. We know of your interest in 
the welfare of everything that appertains to the 
men of the sea, and we earnestly pray that you 
may long be spared to enjoy this well-merited 

This was from Mr. Frank S. Higman, the Hon. 
Secretary of the Cardiff Y.M.C.A. : 

The boys at the depot wish me to add their 
congratulations, for they appreciate your thought 
of them in giving them the hut, and no one is 
more pleased at the recognition you have received 
than they. 


Mr. J. M. Madders, joint General Manager of 
the London City and Midland Bank, Ltd., 
wrote : 

Nothing has given me more personal pleasure 
than to see how the Government has acted in the 
right way and recognised the valuable work that 
you have been doing for the nation since the out- 
break of war. I am quite sure that if our Chair- 
man, Sir Edward Holden, had been here to-day 
he would have wished to be joined in this ex- 
pression of pleasure. 

This was from a corporal in the Royal Garrison 
Artillery : 

At the time the newspapers reached me with 
the news we were in action, and as the guns 
belched forth their souvenirs for the Huns I 
allowed myself to think they were firing salvoes 
to celebrate your knighthood. I feel proud to be 
an employee of one of Cardiff's leaders of com- 
merce whom His Majesty has been graciously 
pleased to honour. 

Captain E. R. G. R. Evans (the famous ex- 
plorer) wrote as follows : 

I am writing to send you my best congratula- 
tions on your knighthood. Well done ! I have 
not, and never will, forget your kindness and 
generosity in connection with the (Scott) Ant- 
arctic Expedition. 


There was also one from a certain Right Hon. 
Member of Parliament. It read : 

The happiest day of my life ! Your knighthood 
and my Silver Wedding. 

Needless to say, the Silver Wedding was not 
forgotten ! 

A few weeks later the " Western Mail " made 
the following announcement : 

In recognition of the knighthood conferred 
upon him by His Majesty the King, Com- 
mander Sir Edward Nicholl, the Cardiff ship- 
owner, has made the splendid gift of 10,000 
towards the extension scheme of King Edward 
VII's Hospital at Cardiff. When the special 
appeal was made on behalf of the hospital in 
March last Sir Edward offered, on behalf of his 
firm, to contribute 5000 if five others would 
do likewise within three months. The new gift, 
it is understood, is made without any con- 

The extension scheme will include the pro- 
vision of new children's wards, eye wards, a 
maternity flat, and orthopaedic wards. The 
provision of children's wards is of great import- 
ance. At the present time the accommodation 
for children is so taxed that many cannot 
receive the attention desired. It is in the 
national interest, of course, that everything 
possible should be done to promote the phy- 
sical well-being of the child, especially at a 
time when, as recently announced, only 90 


out of every 100 children reach their second 
year, 86 their third year, and 84 their sixth 

In addition to this most generous donation, 
Sir Edward Nicholl since last midsummer has 
given over 3000 to various charities, in- 
cluding 1000 to the Hamadryad Seamen's 

Sir Edward recognised his knighthood in many 
other ways. He endowed a scholarship of 2000 
at the Cardiff Technical Schools ; he offered 100 
to the first Cardiff man to win the Victoria Cross ; 
he bore the cost of the annual treat of the Redruth 
Town Mission Sunday School ; he sent 110 to 
Nazareth House ; he paid 100 guineas for another 
" Alexandra Day " rose ; he built a spacious hut 
for soldiers at Cardiff Barracks which cost 700 ; 
he guaranteed the 5000 that was necessary as 
the nucleus for the establishment of a War Savings 
bank ; and, in memory of his mother, he renewed 
and repaired the bells of Llanishen Church, in 
which parish he then lived and where his mother 
was buried. 

Before his many gifts to charity are dealt with, 
however, it should be mentioned that soon after 
leaving the Examination Service he became the 
Petrol Control Officer for the whole of South 
Wales and Monmouthshire. It was a responsible 
position, as this letter shows : 



8, Northumberland Avenue, W.C. 2, 
llth December, 1917. 

SIR, I am directed by Mr. Walter Long to 
inform you that you have been appointed Area 
Economy Officer for South Wales and Monmouth- 
shire. A schedule of the principal Naval, Military, 
and Air Service stations in this area will be for- 
warded to you in due course. 

2. The object which Mr. Long has in view in 
appointing Economy Officers is to effect economy 
in the consumption of petrol in His Majesty's 
Services and by civilians, by preventing waste or 
improper use, through the co-ordination of con- 
trol and by appeals to individual users. 

3. With this aim it is desired that you should, 
as far as possible, take steps to keep yourself 
informed of the extent and efficiency of the 
arrangements adopted to ensure economy, and to 
use your influence to promote reforms where these 
appear necessary or desirable. 

4. It is recognised that in carrying out these 
duties you must be given ample discretionary 
power, and Mr. Long is confident that he can 
rely upon your good judgment in avoiding any 
action which might bring you into conflict with 
the responsible officers of the various Services or 
with the Petrol Controller. 

5. Arrangements are being made with the 
Admiralty, the War Office, and the Air Board, in 
accordance with which these Departments will 


inform the respective Commanding Officers that 
they may receive a visit from you at any time, 
and will instruct them to afford you information 
and facilities for observation. 

6. It is desired that you should report progress 
in writing to this Department for Mr. Long's 
information from time to time, giving particulars 
of any instances of waste or improper use which 
may have come to your notice, and of such 
measures as you may find it judicious and 
practicable to take in reference thereto. 
I am, etc., 


Sir Edward applied to this post the same eager- 
ness and the same unremitting energy that he had 
previously given to the work of examination in 
the Bristol Channel. He conceived the notion 
that the best way to make his ideas known was 
by circulating a letter to the Press. This com- 
munication was the result : 


Very few people realise, or consider, the serious 
and isolated position this country occupies with 
reference to its petrol supplies. Every gallon of 
petrol has to be water-borne and brought to this 
country and France, and its constant supplies are 
more necessary and vital to-day than ever before 
in the history of this country. Our oil-driven 


To face page 166 


9 AUG192C 

$ ? 



craft, our Air Services, cannot move without it, 
and to-day, when so much depends upon our air- 
craft, both in defending these shores, observa- 
tions, and defences abroad, it behoves every loyal 
citizen to economise and conserve, in every 
possible way, the use of petrol. 

No one likes police-court proceedings, and, 
when the position is realised, these should not be 

When it is realised that the Admiralty, the 
Army, the Air and Civilian Services, the Home 
Office, the Treasury, the Board of Trade, and 
various other Departments have all to be con- 
sulted and brought into co-operation and in 
working agreement with a new Department of 
the State, viz. H.M. Petroleum Executive, it will 
be readily realised how confusion may appear to 
exist and orders often reissued, amended, or 

There are certainly very great hardships to 
motorists, especially when licences have been 
taken out and supplies are left in private garages ; 
but the general position is the one to consider, 
and every motorist should be on his honour only 
to use petrol when absolutely necessary, and 
neither draw nor claim petrol for purposes of 

In addition to Admiralty and Air Services, 
there is, of course, the very great demand of the 
Army, ambulance, and civilian motor services ; 
the Air Services alone in this country consume 
enormous quantities. 


Every submarine commander makes a dead set 
against oil steamers, and they are easily distin- 
guished from other craft ; hence the seriousness 
of maintaining our supplies. 

Abuses there always are and, with the thought- 
less and careless, always will be, and any cases 
brought to the notice of the authorities on proof 
will be very severely dealt with ; but the cur- 
tailing of joy riding and other economies have 
resulted during the last three months in a very 
satisfactory and substantial saving of petrol. 
This will be very considerably improved upon 
during the next three months, if the same careful 
economy is observed, which must be very satis- 
factory reading to all those interested in the 
maintenance of our petrol supplies for our Navy, 
Army, Air, and civilian services, and without 
which all the air-craft built and building would 
be absolutely useless. 

The conserving of petrol to-day is as vital to 
every citizen of this Empire as the conserving of 
food or the output of munitions. 

That he rendered excellent service is proved by 
the following letter from Sir John Cadman's 
secretary. It was written on the 29th July, 
1918 :- 

I am directed by Sir John Cadman to thank 
you for your letter of July 26th, and to say how 
much he regrets that the circumstances to which 
you refer will prevent your continuing to act as 


Area Economy Officer for the Cardiff district. 
Sir John Cadman has asked me to convey to you 
his great appreciation of the services which you 
have rendered to the Department, and to thank 
you for your ready assistance and the time which 
you have so willingly given to the work. 

From reports which have reached him he feels 
sure that the energetic action which you have 
taken has caused a great improvement in the 
manner in which the regulations are enforced in 
the Cardiff district, and he has no doubt that a 
great economy in petrol will be effected. I am 
to add that Sir John Cadman would have written 
to you personally had not your letter arrived 
when he was on the point of leaving for a short 

But to return to Sir Edward's many charitable 
bequests. I only wish I could give a complete 
list ; that being impossible, I can only briefly 
refer to those gifts which, for the want of a better 
term, may be called the most important. 

For years it had been his great wish that a 
home should be built where the unmarried mother 
would have skilled and kind attention. On 
November 3rd, 1916, Mr. Walter Long visited 
Cardiff to open a ward in the King Edward VII 
Hospital. Sir Edward was one of the speakers, 
and in the course of his remarks he said : 

The children should be saved and the mothers 
cared for, and I am prepared to foot the bill to 


build such a home as the one I have in my mind. 
All I ask is that a few simple conditions be 
observed. No questions must be asked at the 
front door. I care not whether the mothers be 
Roman Catholics, Protestants, Hindoos, or Mo- 
hammedans. Whilst there is a bed vacant no 
one must be refused admission. I want to feel 
that I have done some good in the city of my 
adoption. There is no man in Cardiff prouder of 
the city of his adoption than I am, and its 
beautiful institutions ; but I think this institu- 
tion stands out pre-eminent above all others. 
We are proud of the beautiful City Hall, the 
Museum, and all the other additions, but the 
great and good work carried on here cannot be 
compared with the others in magnitude and 
importance. So I told Major Maclean whilst 
travelling to London on one occasion that it was 
my ambition to do something like that one day, 
and I should like to put up a building to be 
known as my building. I quite saw difficulties 
but I have no doubt they will be overcome in 
the say of its endowment. Well, I said I would 
be prepared to give 50,000 to put up such a 
building if they would agree in turn to two or 
three simple conditions : If they could find a 
generous landowner to give the ground ; if they 
would agree that it should be for maternity and 
children. If some poor girl comes to the hospital, 
she is not to be turned away from the front door. 
If some poor girl is in trouble and wants assist- 
ance, she must come never mind who she is, or 


what she is, or where she comes from. She must 
have the best attention, and the child afterwards 
be looked after. If these conditions are agreed 
to they can take whatever religion they like, the 
mothers can select that ; this is a religious work 
and a great work of religion, but they should not 
be asked their religion at the front door if these 
few conditions are complied with, then the build- 
ing can be completed in three or four years, and 
you may count on me to foot the bill. 

The difficulties did arise. That, perhaps, was 
to be expected. And it was to be expected, too, 
that Sir Edward, as a business man, would go 
about the matter in a business-like way. He 
caused the following letter to be sent to Colonel 
Bruce Vaughan, who was the Vice- Chairman of 
the King Edward VII Hospital : 

Maternity Hospital and Child Welfare Depart- 
ment, King Edward VII Hospital. In reference 
to Sir Edward Nicholl's promised gift of Fifty 
Thousand Pounds for the purpose of providing a 
suitable building for the above scheme, he has 
requested me to state that the conditions govern- 
ing same should be placed on record, and ratified, 
by the Hospital Authorities, before anything is 
done in starting same. 

Conditions : 

(A) The 50,000 to be expended on the building 
and the furnishing of same, according to 
plans, estimates, and contracts, to be ap- 


proved of by the Hospital Authorities, the 
Cardiff Health Committee, and my client. 
Such building not to be utilised for the 
proposed new Nurses' Home. If, however, 
as appears by the Annual Report for 1916, 
the building and furnishing would run into 
about 32,000, and not 50,000, then the 
balance remaining to be disposed of as my 
client shall think fit, either in connection 
with King Edward VII Hospital or for 
some other outside philanthropic object. 

(B) The freehold of the site to be acquired by the 

Hospital Authorities from some generous 

(C) A statement in writing showing the proposed 

objects of the scheme and the manner of 
working same. 

(D) An assured income sufficient to cover the 

proper maintenance and upkeep of the 
scheme when in full working order. 

Reading the discussion which took place at the 
Cardiff Health Committee on the 21st inst., and 
as reported in the issue of the " Western Mail " 
of the 22nd inst., on the question of Maternity 
and Child Welfare, it would appear as if some 
overlapping and friction might be created. This, 
of course, must not obtain, otherwise the bene- 
ficent effect of my client's generosity and high- 
minded motives would be, if not frustrated, at 
least impaired. 

10,000 Gift. Another matter he spoke to me 


about was this additional gift. This appears in 
the Annual Report as 10,500. As this is not 
correct, please see that it is rectified, and likewise 
made clear, that it is for a Wing to be called the 
" Sir Edward Nicholl Wing," and not as a con- 
tribution to the general funds of the Hospital. 

You will, I am sure, appreciate that this letter 
is written solely with the view of avoiding the 
possibility of any future misunderstanding. 
Yours faithfully, 



That started a somewhat lengthy correspond- 
ence. The many letters have no place here ; nor, 
indeed, is there room for them, but the whole 
matter may be summed up by saying that Sir 
Edward's conditions were not observed. Objec- 
tion, for example, was raised to the housing and 
rearing of illegitimate children in the King 
Edward VII Hospital, and this caused Sir Edward 
to state publicly that if illegitimate children were 
to be barred he would use the money he had 
offered to build a home elsewhere. 

That, actually, is what he did. He was so 
anxious to do something for the little ones that 
he gave orders in 1917 for a temporary place to 
be erected, and later still he presented 20,000 
for a new building to be built, and this, at the 
present moment, is in course of construction. 

From the beginning he insisted that the centre 


should be a place of refuge and hope for un- 
married expectant mothers. In pursuance of this 
point of view he called in the Cardiff branch of 
the Waifs and Strays Society, and soon after 
Lord Tredegar helped the scheme very consider- 
ably by presenting three acres of land on which 
to erect the home. A committee of ladies, with 
Mrs. Robinson at their head, have rendered most 
excellent service, and for some time now (1920) 
thirty mothers and their babies have had the 
care and attention they so badly needed. 

The conditions of the Founder's gift are as 
follows : 

(Founded 1918) 

1. The Founder Sir Edward Nicholl will ex- 

pend the sums necessary, up to 20,000, 
for the erection and equipment of three 
buildings, to be named the EDWARD 
NICHOLL HOMES (one for babies, and one 
each for boys and girls over two or three 
years old), subject to the raising and in- 
vestment in trust securities of an Endow- 
ment Fund of not less than 20,000 for its 
assured maintenance, and to the gift of a 
Freehold Site. 

2. The Homes will be under the auspices of the 

" Church of England Waifs and Strays 


3. Until the buildings can be erected and occu- 

pied after the war a temporary Home will 
be acquired, to be maintained from the 
interest earned on investments of the 
Endowment Fund, supplemented by volun- 
tary contributions, the funds of the Church 
of England Waifs and Strays Society, and 
if necessary, by Sir Edward Nicholl, to an 
amount to be agreed, pending the expendi- 
ture on the buildings. 

4. Local architects must be allowed to compete 

for the design of the three Homes (on 
premiums offered by the Founder). The 
selection to be entrusted to experts chosen 
by him ; and local builders to tender for 
the contract for the buildings, which are to 
be commenced as soon as possible after 
the war. 

5. The objects of the Homes are to combat the 

evils of Baby Farming, and of infants being 
" Foster-Mothered " by undesirable per- 
sons ; to help poor mothers anxious to find 
a good home for their babies and, generally, 
to protect and safeguard infant life. 

6. The responsible parent must undertake, in 

every case possible, to contribute a reason- 
able sum weekly, or monthly, towards the 
child's maintenance, the amount to be de- 
cided by the Case Committee after con- 
sidering all the circumstances. 

7. No baby (whether the parents be married or un- 

married) is to be refused admission whilst 


there is a vacant cot and the circumstances 
are such as to justify immediate admis- 
sion ; preference always to be given to the 
children of sailors or soldiers killed or in- 
capacitated in the War. 

8. No questions of the Religious Beliefs (if any) 

of the parents are to be inquired into or 
discussed, but it is understood that while 
children remain in the Homes they will be 
brought up in the Faith of the Church of 

9. A parent may visit his or her child on reason- 

able visiting days, and at reasonable hours, 
in accordance with the approval of the 
House Committee and Matron. 

10. The Institution must never be allowed to run 
into debt, or undertake liabilities more than 
the Endowment Fund, voluntary subscrip- 
tions, and " The Church of England Waifs 
and Strays Society " will provide and allow 
for its continuous maintenance. 

And so the ambition " to have a lasting 
memorial when I am boxed up " was realised. 
There is to-day, at the King Edward Hospital, 
Cardiff, a " Sir Edward Nicholl Wing," whilst the 
" Edward Nicholl Home " is beginning to do the 
good work the founder always hoped it would do. 

I can only briefly refer to the remainder of Sir 
Edward's benefactions. He gave a reredos to 
St. John's Church in memory of Lord Kitchener ; 
he made a very practical gift to the policemen of 

9 AUG1926 * 



Cardiff by presenting them with a five-acre field 
to be used as small holdings ; he made possible 
the provision of a playground for Redruth 
children ; he made many other gifts to Redruth 
the residents of the town, in recognition, con- 
ceived the happy idea of, in turn, presenting Sir 
Edward with a replica of the drum he had once 
played in the old Volunteer Band ; he subscribed 
200 towards the County of Cornwall War 
Memorial ; when the " Evening Express " Fund 
for Welsh Soldier Prisoners in Germany struck a 
bad patch he livened up general interest in the 
movement, or, as the " Express " termed it, 
" came to the rescue," by sending a cheque for 
one hundred guineas ; and (although this was 
not a charitable effort) he gave a lead to others 
by investing 300,000 in War Loans on the occa- 
sion of the Government's first appeal. Later still 
he headed the list of his constituency in Cornwall 
with 25,000, and at the end he had invested 
altogether 500,000 in War Loans. Which, 
viewed from any standpoint, is a very remark- 
able record for a private individual. 

" His latest contribution " (said one newspaper 
writer, in referring to a particular gift) " places 
him in the front rank of benefactors. The hope 
that he may be spared to derive immense gratifi- 
cation from the good work that his gift renders 
possible will be shared by all his fellow-citizens 
and admirers." 


Who does the best his circumstance allows 
Does well, acts nobly, angels could no more. 


SIR EDWARD severed his connection with 
shipping in 1917 ; but before I deal with 
that important stage in his career let me first 
refer, as briefly as possible, to what I may call 
his second big crusade. It roused the whole 
country ; it resulted in newspapers devoting 
much space to his very pointed remarks, and it 
eventually caused the Cabinet to make an inquiry 
into his charges. 

From the beginning of the war he had firmly 
believed that South Wales and especially certain 
ports was full of spies. In 1917 he presided over 
a big public meeting which Admiral Lord Charles 
Beresford, who was his guest at the time, 
attended ; but it was not until 1918 that he 
compelled people to listen to what he was saying. 

On a certain Sunday in March he addressed a 
gathering at Newport. " I have no doubt there 
are spies in Cardiff," he said. " I even feel sure 
there are aliens present at this meeting. I advise 
seamen not to talk too freely about their work 


SPIES 179 

and their ships. How is it that the commander 
of a submarine can say to a torpedoed crew : 
' You left Barry at ten o'clock on Sunday morn- 
ing. Where the hell have you been ? ' Germans 
are walking around all the docks from Bristol to 

He went on to say that he was prepared to 
state that the German submarine which had sunk 
the " Glenart Castle " knew she had left Newport, 
and he demanded that aliens should not be 
allowed to enter the docks. " There are spies in 
every port," he declared, " and no vessel leaves 
unknown to the submarines at the mouth of the 

As was to be expected, this speech was given 
considerable publicity. A day or so later the 
point was raised in the House of Commons, Major 
Hunt tabling questions in which he urged that 
steps should be taken to prevent any alien from 
entering any dock. 

Mr. William Brace answered Major Hunt on 
behalf of the Home Secretary. It was a typical 
Parliamentary reply. The Department was not 
aware of the statement, but the Admiralty were 
being consulted on the subject. Aliens, said Mr. 
Brace, were generally excluded from all docks 
and areas in which docks were situated, admission 
to which was regulated by the naval and military 
authorities. Aliens forming part of the crews of 
neutral ships could not be altogether excluded 


from the docks, but they were not allowed to 
land unless they came from a friendly port, and 
then only under conditions which were strictly 

The answer satisfied Sir Edward as little as it 
satisfied everyone else, which is to say that it did 
not satisfy at all. He was speaking with know- 
ledge, but confirmation of his remarks came in a 
flood in the shape of countless letters. There was, 
for example, this letter from a prominent Car- 
diffian : 

I observe from to-day's papers that your old 
question as to spies existing in the Bristol Channel 
has again been brought up in the House of 
Commons, and I infer therefrom that those in 
authority do not believe what has been stated. 
I heard on Saturday last that on a certain ship 
in the Channel here there has for a number of 
years been an unnaturalised German who has two 
daughters employed in the Post Office and who 
until some time since were engaged in the tele- 
phone operating department, but I presume, in 
consequence of their nationality, were removed 
from such department and put down to the 
counter ; that the family in their own house 
speak nothing but German, that the wife is also 
German, and that they have spent their holidays 
over in Germany and, in fact, have been over 
there since the war broke out. Possibly, how- 
ever, this information is well known to you ; but 
if, on the other hand, you should require any 


further facts to corroborate same and will let me 
know, I will endeavour to get you such informa- 
tion as you may require, as, of course, I quite 
realise that the above statement must be accu- 
rate and bear the test of strong cross-examination. 

This was a still more extraordinary letter : 

In conversation with a dock pilot yesterday on 
the subject of aliens in Cardiff Docks, he men- 
tioned that the most accurate information of 
ships' movements up and down the Bristol 
Channel is obtained by ships' stores runners of 
all nationalities from coastguards. From per- 
sonal experience I have on many occasions rung 
up (a number and exchange were given) and 
obtained news of ships passing up and down 
Channel, without ever being asked who I repre- 
sented. If the coastguards are so lax, is it not 
possible that the movements of steamer sailings 
is obtained by aliens through this source ? All 
reporting of ships' movements by telephone 
should be stopped. 

The Commander-in-Chief of the Western Com- 
mand (General Pitcairn Campbell), in a reply 
letter to Sir Edward, said he quite agreed " that 
there is a lot of spying going on at all our ports, 
and in many of the big towns too, but we are 
doing better than we did about it " ; whilst the 
Secretary of the British Empire Union wrote as 
follows : 


Seeing your letters in the papers with regard 
to spies in every port in the Bristol Channel, I 
write to know if our Union can be of any assist- 
ance to you in taking this matter up. I have sent 
information to the authorities time after time 
with regard to signalling going on in the Bristol 
Channel, also on the south coast of Devonshire 
and Cornwall, but no attention seems to be paid. 
Aliens are allowed to live all round the coast, 
and, as you say, have free access to our ports, and 
it is criminal folly, when so many lives are being 
lost by the action of U-boats, that such a state 
of things should be allowed to exist. 

I see that you have prepared a list of Germans 
and aliens who have the free run of the docks. 
Could you let us have a copy of this list ? 

Another letter was signed " Devonian." This 
was one of the few that were anonymous. It 
read : 

I trust you will excuse the liberty of me 
addressing you, and that anonymously. It is my 
firm opinion that the G.W.R. route to Fishguard 
is much frequented by spies, in civilian attire and 
in naval uniform ; and would suggest, if possible, 
a much stricter surveillance, also interrogation, 
of foreigners travelling by that route. 

Quite recently I travelled by early mail train 
from Cardiff, and in the compartment was a 
person wearing naval officer's uniform who spoke 
English, but the accent was unmistakably Ger- 


man. Where there are so many of our fighting 
men travelling it would be easy for such a person 
to gain much desired information, as sailor-men 
are, as a rule, not of a suspecting nature and 
would unwittingly give information to one wear- 
ing the uniform of their own class. 

Of all the letters received, however, the most 
remarkable was from a well-known Swansea 
solicitor. He wrote : 

As you know, I am generally interested in your 
public activities, as well as in yourself personally, 
and I have followed with considerable interest 
the attention that Parliament is giving to your 
public statement respecting uninterned aliens. 

My partner, Mr. , is likewise interested, 

and whilst journeying to London the other day 
he met four ships' joiners who had been working 
in Cardiff Docks, and he entered into a conversa- 
tion with them with the purpose of obtaining 
their views upon the matters that you have 
raised. They were men who had been working 
in other ports, and they volunteered the state- 
ment that there was absolutely no supervision at 
Cardiff Docks and that they could go in and out 
of the docks in Cardiff carrying any parcel with- 
out being challenged, which was something new 
for them, as in other ports they had always to 
show their identity cards, permit, etc. 

Mr. asked them if they were prepared to 

state that in writing, and they did so. I am en- 


closing the statement signed by the men whereon 
are their addresses in full if you care to com- 
municate with them further. They were evidently 
responsible men, and were prepared to back what 
they say. 

The document read : 

We the undersigned hereby declare as follows: 

1. We are ship- joiners by trade, and left London 

for Cardiff on 21st February last to pick up 
the " Highland Laddie " for general repairs. 

2. The boat was in Alexandra Dock. 

3. We are now on the train returning home after 

completing our work. 

4. We went about Cardiff, and in and out of the 

Dock, to and from our work, and were never 
asked to produce our registration cards, 
exemption cards, or photographs, and we 
say, further, that we were never challenged 
in any way except that at night-time the 
policeman on duty at the Dock would ask 
us the name of the boat we were working on. 

T. W. Arnold, 95, Essex Rd., Manor Park, E. 
H. E. Manning, 91, New City Rd., Plaistow, E. 
C. F. Dudley, 52, Bignold Rd., Forest Gate, E. 7. 
H. Gibbs, 16, Norfolk Rd., East Ham, E. 

On the day that this letter was posted a Swedish 
dock-gate man at Newport and a Russian residing 
in the Uskside town were charged with collecting, 
recording, and communicating information in 


respect to the movement, description, and dis- 
position of ships at Newport, of such a nature as 
was calculated to be of use to the enemy. 
Detective- Superintendent Tanner, in his evidence, 
said that the Swede had made this amazing state- 
ment : " It is an understood thing to give infor- 
mation about the sailing of ships, and the people 
pay Is. 6d. per week for such information." Ten 
days later, at Highgate, a Russian was charged 
with failing to notify his change of address. The 
man's explanation was contained in the following 
terse statement : "I am on the run." An 
identity book found on him showed that he had 
travelled extensively in South Wales and the 
North. His visits to South Wales were confined 
to dock centres. 

Lieut. Stoodley, R.N.V.R., also supplied some 
very useful information. He was engaged in the 
Examination Service at the time ; and then 
Captain A. L. Petherbridge, D.S.C., came forward 
with some first-hand facts. He stated : 

I was master of the steam trawler s.s. "Hatsuse" 
of Cardiff. I was attacked and sunk whilst 
trawling by a German submarine on October 14th, 
1916, 260 miles west of Lundy Island. All the 
crew taken on board the submarine, and then 
transferred to a Norwegian steamer, " Older," of 
Bergen. Whilst on board the German com- 
mander informed me that we were the only three 
trawlers then used out of Cardiff, instead of 


twenty. He then stated the other seventeen were 
on war service, and asked me if he was correct. 
I answered in the affirmative. He also told me 
that we only had dummy guns on board ; which 
was correct. He asked me where the other 
trawlers were, as he expected to find us altogether, 
as usual. He was somewhat disappointed, as he 
had come some distance to bag us. He asked me 
some questions concerning some patrol boats, and 
some destroyers which searched for submarines, 
and, of course, I did not tell him anything correct. 
He then called me a damned liar, and told me 
he knew more about it than I did. We were on 
board four days and four nights, until we were 
captured by H.M.S. " Otway," auxiliary cruiser, 
and after the Germans were taken on board as 
prisoners we were sent to Stornoway on board the 
s.s. " Older." The German commander and his 
crew are still prisoners of war in England. 

Sir Edward was thus in possession of sufficient 
information to make even the Cabinet believe 
that he had aired a subject that was of outstand- 
ing importance. But he was by no means certain 
that the authorities would act with promptitude, 
and as a consequence he got into touch with an 
official at the Home Office whose views coincided 
with his own. This lengthy reply letter was the 
result : 

I much regret that a malign fate seems to have 
prevented my seeing you at the Home Office, as 


I should have liked to do. However, I have had 
a long talk with Mr. Brace, and he is anxious that 
I should write to you. 

As you probably know, THE COMPETENT NAVAL 


have now added to the existing order regulating 
access to ships a new clause prohibiting aliens 
entering Cardiff Docks or Barry Docks without a 
permit. I fear that the conditions will prevent 
everyone entering the Docks being scrutinised, 
but there will be pickets, I understand, in the 
Docks who will challenge people for their papers. 
I hope this will have a deterrent effect, at any 
rate, but you will realise the difficulties inherent 
in the question. 

I think you mentioned the case of the London 
Docks to Mr. Brace. They are in a peculiar 
position, as the Docks themselves constitute a 
prohibited area, while the neighbourhood of the 
Docks, like the rest of London, is non- prohibited. 
Now, under the Aliens Restriction Order no alien 
can enter a prohibited area without an Identity 
Book, and, by agreement between the Metro- 
politan and the Port of London Authorities 
Police, aliens entering the Docks are required to 
be in possession of an Identity Card instead of 
the regular Identity Book. But here, again, with 
the thousands of dock labourers, etc., entering 
the Docks, close scrutiny of everyone is im- 
practicable, though the Port of London Autho- 
rity's Police do their best. 

Unfortunately, in London the Docks are only 


one-half of the problem, as there are miles of open 
wharves where ships lie, and it is practically 
impossible, without regiments of troops, to guard 
them properly and the troops are not avail- 

So far as the Home Office is concerned, our 
task lies in the movements of alien seamen off 
and on their ships. At a very early stage in the 
war I pressed for military guards to be placed on 
ships trading with neutral European ports, as it 
was through such ships that the chief danger lay 
of information being conveyed to enemy agents. 
I was met with the answer reasonable enough 
in the circumstances that the trained men were 
wanted at the front, and the untrained men 
could not be spared from the camps. Later on, 
when the R.D.C. was formed, I pressed again, and 
was strongly supported by M.I. 5. This time we 
were successful, and now some 1100 men of the 
R.D.C. are guarding these ships at all points 
in the United Kingdom to which they come. 
Further, I was instrumental in getting the com- 
petent Naval Authorities and competent Military 
Authorities to make orders under the Defence 
of the Realm Regulations regulating the access 
from the shore to the ship in these cases such 
access being just as important as access from the 
ship to the shore. 

When these ships from neutral European ports 
were very numerous, as they were for some time 
after war broke out, we found it was impracti- 
cable to prevent the master landing for ship's 


To face page 188 

1 9 AUG1926 - 

business. Now that they have fallen off in 
number, in conjunction with M.I. 5 and with all 
the Departments concerned, I have worked out 
a scheme which will have the effect of preventing 
anyone landing from such ships. This is being 
gradually applied all round the coast, and in this 
way I hope that all chance of communication- 
with enemy agents in neutral countries through 
such ships will disappear. 

I am afraid this is a long and scrappy letter, 
but I hope you will find it of some interest. 

Other people had by this time become inter- 
ested in the matter. Among them was Mr. J. 
Havelock Wilson, M.P., who made statements 
that were even stronger than those Sir Edward 
had been responsible for. All the time the 
Admiralty were denying that there was any 
evidence to show that there were spies in the 
Bristol Channel ports. That induced Mr. Ronald 
McNeill, M.P., to put a point-blank question to 
the First Lord of the Admiralty. 

Mr. McNeill asked if the attention of the First 
Lord had been called to a speech delivered at 
Newport by Commander Sir Edward Nioholl, 
President of the Merchant Seamen's League, and 
whether, in view of the fact that this officer de- 
clared that he spoke as Examination Officer for 
the Bristol Channel, his demand that aliens should 
not be allowed to enter the Docks would be com- 
plied with. Would the First Lord say what steps 


he proposed to take to remove the danger re- 
ferred to ? 

Dr. Macnamara's reply was everywhere labelled 
as thoroughly unsatisfactory. It was as follows: 

My attention has been called to the utterances 
referred to. Sir Edward Nicholl is being asked 
for an explanation of his statements. If the 
statement is true that there are spies in every 
port of the Bristol Channel, it was certainly Sir 
Edward Nicholl's duty to report the fact to his 
superior officer with all the information in his 
possession. The circumstances of the Docks at 
Cardiff are well known and are constantly en- 
gaging attention on the part of the local Naval 
and Military authorities and the Home Office, 
and are at the present time receiving considera- 
tion. My hon. friends may rest assured that 
every practicable procedure is being adopted for 
reducing the danger from the presence of aliens 
in the port. 

There happened to be two " hon. friends " in 
the House of Commons that day who found them- 
selves unable to rest assured. One was Major 
Hunt, and the other Mr. G. Faber. Major Hunt 
asked whether Dr. Macnamara was aware that 
the attitude of the Government in allowing aliens 
to infest ports was very greatly resented, and that 
officers openly said that if they were allowed a 
free hand they could catch most of the spies 


Mr. Faber followed by making this very perti- 
nent remark : " After three and a half years, has 
not the right hon. gentleman's department got 
beyond the stage of serious consideration ? 5: To 
which Dr. Macnamara replied, in the time- 
honoured way : "It was not in our hands until 
recently, but in the hands of the War Office." 

A few weeks later the " South Wales Daily 
News " summed up the matter very neatly by 
saying in a special article : 

Despite the official answer (of the usual 
official style) which has been made to the dis- 
closures of Sir Edward Nicholl concerning the 
activities of spies in South Wales, particularly 
at the Docks, the movement to exercise closer 
supervision and keep stricter surveillance is 
progressing. Sir Edward Nicholl has compiled 
and submitted detailed evidence as to the 
serious existence of the spy system, and has 
also furnished facts concerning aliens who have 
perfect freedom of access to the Docks, some 
of them acting as hawkers or canvassers for 
business, and others being in association with 
shipping work. These facts give full reason for 
the conviction that stricter oversight indeed, 
actual exclusion of at least certain persons is 
eminently desirable in the national interest, 
and that the liberty of access hitherto enjoyed 
by them to the Docks and to other sources of 
information should be extinguished. In view 
of the agitation which is arising and the accu- 
mulating evidence as to the effectiveness of the 


spy system, it has been determined to persevere 
in South Wales with the effort to put a stop to 
these activities. Sir Edward Nicholl knows 
that workmen from other parts of the country 
can be brought to the Docks and set to work 
without investigation as to their bona fides, 
and this is another point to which official 
attention is being directed, seeing the risk thus 
entailed of undesirable persons getting valuable 

So strong was the feeling at Cardiff that it was 
only by Sir Edward's efforts that a serious strike 
was averted. The local sailors and firemen were 
so incensed at what was regarded as the feeble 
policy of the Government that they actually de- 
cided to tie up the shipping of the port. It was 
only by the active intervention of Sir Edward 
that the unrest was appeased ; he promised to go 
all out in an effort to rid the country of the un- 

He was as good as his word. In May, Major 
Hunt again raised the question in the House of 
Commons. He asked the Secretary to the 
Admiralty whether an explanation had been re- 
ceived from Commander Sir Edward Nicholl. 

Dr. Macnamara replied : 

It is due to Sir Edward Nicholl that I should 
say that my reply of May 1st (1918), stating that 
he had been asked for an explanation by the War 
Office, which had not been received, was in- 


correct. The War Office appears to have written 
to the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, 
under whom Sir Edward Nicholl had been serv- 
ing, and that officer replied that Sir Edward 
Nicholl had ceased to hold his appointment under 
him on September 1st, 1917. The request for an 
explanation did not, therefore, reach Sir Edward 
Nicholl as I presumed it had done. Had it done 
so, I am sure he would have forwarded forthwith 
the grounds upon which, on March 3rd, he ex- 
pressed the opinion already referred to. I have 
recently, however, had an opportunity of going 
into the matter pretty fully with Sir Edward 
Nicholl and hearing from him the grounds for his 
belief, stated on March 3rd, that there were spies 
in the Bristol Channel. His statement, except in 
one particular, does not, in fact, add to the informa- 
tion possessed by the Admiralty. 

The italics are mine. Considering that two 
months earlier Dr. Macnamara had said that 
there was no evidence that there were spies in 
the Bristol Channel, comment would seem to be 
superfluous. That very day, however, a new 
order under the Defence of the Realm Act apply- 
ing to the port of Cardiff was advertised in all 
the local papers. It re-enacted the old order 
restricting the right of persons to board vessels 
trading with neutral European ports, and in- 
cluded an entirely new order prohibiting aliens 
from going on the Cardiff Docks area without 


obtaining a permit from the police. Further 
drastic orders were issued in the weeks that fol- 
lowed, and finally Sir Edward's charges were 
definitely proved by an admission by the Foreign 
Office, in the course of official correspondence 
bearing upon the losses of ships by submarine 
attacks, that the Germans had stated that they 
had received from an agent at Cardiff such infor- 
mation as had enabled a certain submarine to 
work with success. 

In June it was announced that Mr. Lloyd 
George was taking a hand in the matter it is 
worthy of mention that only a day or so before 
Sir Edward had sent him a lengthy and quite-to- 
the-point telegram and the new policy that Sir 
Edward had all along advocated came into force 
a little later. One of the most important orders 
issued was that all the business of a neutral vessel 
trading with a neutral European port was to be 
conducted aboard and not ashore. That meant 
the withdrawal of the quite unsatisfactory order 
whereby aliens were allowed to land on produc- 
tion of a permit signed by an Aliens' Officer. 

The crusade was justified, and so was the man 
who had first started it. I am inclined to think 
that in getting the Cabinet to move as he did 
Sir Edward accomplished the biggest thing of his 
career. His first crusade was purely local ; his 
second was national. That both were crowned 
with success says much for his pertinacity and for 


his determination not to be swerved from his 

This humorous paragraph, taken from a weekly 
journal of the period, tells its own tale : 

(Dr. Macnamara has made inquiries, and 
there are no German spies in the Bristol 
Channel ports, after all. I am awfully glad to 
hear it ; and I do hope the German spies who 
said they were not German spies were telling 
the truth.) 

The cause of certain things to trace, our Dr. 
Macnamara wise proceeded to a certain place 
in search of certain German spies. He took the 
" doubtfuls " to his side : " Are you of German 
kin and kith ? " " Mein Gott ! " they angrily 
replied. " Our names are Brown, and Jones, 
and Smith ! " " I'll try again," said Dr. M. 

c These worthy men bore British names ! It's 
infamous, suspecting them of getting up to 
sinful games ! " He asked another little gang : 

4 You're natives of a German town ? " In- 
dignantly their voices rang : " Our names are 
Smith, and Jones, and Brown ! " " Dear me ! " 
our noble friend exclaimed. " How very awk- 
ward, is it not ? I'm really feeling quite 
ashamed for bothering you such a lot ! " And 
then he turned to gang the third, and in 
apologetic tones addressed them thus : " You'll 
give your word that you are Smith, and Brown, 
and Jones ? " 

One more short reference, and I am done with 
his habit of striking the right nail on the head 


or with his habit of crusading, if that better ex- 
presses it. He called attention to the scandal of 
the excessive provisioning of ships, and made it 
perfectly clear that large quantities of foodstuffs 
were passing out of the country in the guise of 
ships' stores. Potatoes were particularly scarce. 
Yet one foreign steamer was allowed to sail with 
over thirty tons. 

This news item from the " Western Mail " tells 
the rest of the story : 

It was reported to the Cardiff City Council 
on Monday that the Board of Trade had, since 
the 1st inst. (February, 1917), put into opera- 
tion new regulations with regard to the victual- 
ling of ships, based on the terms of the resolu- 
tion passed by the Food and Fuel Committee 
of the Cardiff Corporation, of which Dr. 
S. N. W. Thomas is Chairman. 

Dr. Thomas said the Food and Fuel Com- 
mittee could congratulate themselves on having 
taken so successful a part in the bringing about 
of the new regulations. 

Alderman Iltyd Thomas : " You ought not 
to take the credit from the c Western Mail,' 
which was a week in front of you." 

Dr. Thomas : " Thank you. Alderman 
Thomas has given me an opportunity of say- 
ing that we did follow the lead so well given 
by the ' Western Mail.' " 

NOTE. And on our part we may add that the 
" Western Mail " took its lead from Sir Edward 

< 9 


9 /MJG1926 



Nicholl, who was the first to discover this serious 
leakage in our food supply. 

I opened this chapter with a reference to Sir 
Edward's departure from the shipping world, and 
it will be fitting to close with a short statement 
dealing with the reasons that led up to his de- 
cision. Let it be first said, however, that getting 
out was a much more simple matter than getting 
in. He had started with next to nothing ; he 
finished with a property that, in the words of 
the shipping journals, was worth considerably 
over one million pounds. Patriotism was at the 
back of the motive which impelled him definitely 
to cut his connection ; he wanted, above all 
things, to devote the whole of his activities to his 
country. Things were going badly with the 
Allies just at that time. The submarines were 
doing very much as they liked ; whilst in France 
and on other fronts our men were having a very 
hard time indeed. To make things still more 
difficult, the " Hall " Line was deprived of 
almost all its staff. In May, 1917, only one 
accountant was left, whilst all the prominent 
heads of departments were on War Service. 

It was not until he had viewed the matter from 
every angle that Sir Edward made up his mind. 
In ordinary circumstances he would have shoul- 
dered the burden and run the business on his own, 


as he had done before. But the call of his 
country was so insistent that he felt he could not 
be content unless he threw his whole weight into 
the struggle. He decided to sell. It was a 
wrench ; but it was the only thing to do. 

The Nicholl Steamship Company in many 
ways the baby of the firm, for it was only started 
in 1913 was disposed of to Messrs. Furness, 
Withy & Company for a price which allowed of a 
clear profit of over 300,000. It was one of the 
biggest deals of the period, and naturally it came 
in for considerable attention. But when it was 
completed, the Cardiff " Hall " Line, with its 
nine up-to-date steamers, still remained intact. 
For six months or more Sir Edward carried on 
the business of the firm for all his staff had been 
called up without assistance. What with his 
Examination Service duties and the myriad 
things that managed to crop up every day he 
was worked almost to a standstill. 

In May, 1917, he came to the big decision : the 
business he had founded had to go. In addition 
to his other multifarious activities he had become 
President of the Merchant Seamen's League, of 
which Lord Charles Beresford was the Vice- 
President. The first big meeting was held at the 
Albert Hall, London, and after that Sir Edward 
presided at, and addressed, others at Liverpool, 
Derby, Bristol, Cardiff, Brighton, East Ham, 
Falmouth, Truro, and Redruth. On the 22nd of 


the month he addressed a letter to the share- 
holders. After pointing out that, in consequence 
of the great depletion of the staff, he was finding 
it very difficult to carry on, he wound up as 
follows : 

The firm is therefore left with a very insuffi- 
cient office staff, and we are handing over the 
management of the steamers to other managing 
owners, and for the duration of the war our 
senior is attending solely to his official duties. 
In view of this, we think it right to give you an 
opportunity of selling your shares in the various 
companies, and think a fair offer would be twice 
the nominal value of the shares in the several 
companies. If you are willing to accept this 
offer, will you be good enough to let me know by 
return of post, and we will at once prepare 
transfers. We think it right to point out to you 
that the several contracts with the companies 
make provision for our successors in the manage- 
ment ; but we should not like to transfer the 
management and our shareholders' interests with- 
out first of all giving the shareholders an oppor- 
tunity of parting with their shares at prices which 
show a very substantial profit. Should we receive 
no reply, we shall presume that you do not desire 
to sell your shares and that you elect to go over 
to the new management. 

It was all over Cardiff next day, and in Docks 
circles at least the letter created a mild sensation. 


One of the Cardiff newspapers headed its para- 
graph as follows : " Big surprise. Huge shipping 
deal. Sir Edward Nicholl sells. Patriotic re- 
solve." It was known by then that the pur- 
chasers were the Hansen Steamship Co., Ltd., 
and the " Western Mail," in its comments, 
said : 

The purchasers are the Hansen Steamship 
Company, Ltd., a private company, the prin- 
cipal partners being Messrs. S. W. Hansen (the 
Chairman of the Cardiff Shipbrokers Institute) 
and Mr. Vyvyan Robinson. The purchase 
terms have not been disclosed, but it is under- 
stood that the vessels of the Cardiff (" Hall ") 
Line, aggregating about 56,000 tons d.w., and 
capitalised as single Ship Companies at about 
200,000, are worth on the open market well 
over a million pounds sterling. 

The deal will increase the steamers under the 
control of the Hansen Company to thirteen, 
aggregating over 80,000 tons d.w. 

Messrs. Edward Nicholl & Company pre- 
viously owned fifteen steamers, but certain 
vessels were purchased a little while ago by 
Messrs. Furness, Withy & Company, Ltd., and 
the vessels remaining vary in age from thirteen 
years down to about two years. It is under- 
stood that the reason for the sale is the fact 
that the naval duties of Commander Sir Edward 
Nicholl, as Chief Examining Officer for the 
Bristol Channel, require all his attention. He 
has therefore given up his private business to 

I III I- If, 

' IV I 


To face page 200 



enable him to give his sole attention to his work 
for the State. 

The Cardiff " Echo," dealing with the same 
subject, remarked: 

Men who have been accustomed to live up to 
the motto, " By industry we flourish," have 
not hesitated to subscribe to the doctrine that 
by the sacrifice of individuals nations live. 
Lord Rhondda and Mr. Leonard Llewellyn 
readily left their great commercial interests to 
devote themselves to the organisation of the 
State, and now we have Sir Edward Nicholl 
parting with a great fleet of steamships in order 
that he also may devote the whole of his energy 
to promoting the welfare of his country by 
helping in the successful prosecution of the 
war. Incidents like these prove that amongst 
the leaders of industry there are those who 
realise that the fulfilment of a patriotic purpose 
is a greater and nobler aim than the mere 
accumulation of wealth, and, both by their 
unflagging work and their fine example, they 
render their countrymen an invaluable service. 

Only one other newspaper opinion need be 
quoted. One of the leading Cornish papers 
said : 

Commander Sir Edward Nicholl never did 
things by halves. The sensational step taken 
by him in leaving the shipping world, in which 
he was a leading figure, recalls some of the 


other occasions on which he startled the public. 
When a member of the Cardiff Corporation, 
Sir Edward was not content with calling atten- 
tion to the seamen's boarding-house grievance. 
He tore the thing up by the roots and replanted 
a better system. As President of the Cornish 
Society in Cardiff he signalised his term of 
office by giving his co-members and friends the 
biggest banquet the city had known. 

The eight steamers that the Hansen Company 
were taking over were the " Welbeck Hall," the 
" Haigh Hall," the " Standish Hall," the " Cardiff 
Hall," the " Windsor Hall," the " Whateley Hall," 
the " Eaton Hall," and the " Tredegar Hall." It 
is doubtful whether the shareholders were alto- 
gether pleased when they read their letters 
there could have been no pleasure in the realisa- 
tion that they were losing a man who had done 
so much for them but there must have been 
many a smile on May 26th, 1917, when they re- 
ceived yet another letter. It read : 

On the day following the posting to you of the 
letter of the 22nd inst. we were offered firm, for 
immediate acceptance, for such shares in the 
several companies as we might be enabled to 
transfer to proposed buyers, a price equal to two 
and a half times their nominal value. This offer 
we have accepted for our own holding. We have 
received this morning from shareholders a very 
large number of acceptances of our offer to buy 


their shares at twice the nominal value, but we 
shall pay to all shareholders who have accepted 
our offer of the 22nd inst. the net sum per share 
received in respect of the offer accepted by us of 
two and a half times the nominal value. 

As one of the shipping journals remarked, the 
original offer compared very favourably with the 
average market price of local shipping shares. 
Only five of the twenty- one unquoted shipping 
securities on the Cardiff Stock Exchange stood at 
a premium of 100 per cent or more, the average 
price of the other sixteen being 31s. Shareholders 
were thus offered 2 10s. for each l original 
value of their shares. It need hardly be said that 
they were not slow in forwarding their accept- 

And so the head of one of the most phenomen- 
ally successful enterprises Cardiff had ever known 
slipped out of business. " He is the architect of 
his own fortune," said one writer, in bidding him 
farewell ; " and he is proud of his early struggles. 
In the early days of the war he offered the 
authorities all his steamers upon any terms they 
chose to offer." 

It is Sir Edward's belief to-day that, had a 
suggestion he made when he was still a shipowner 
been carried out, profiteering, as it is now under- 
stood, would not have been given its start. In 
1915 he sent this telegram which really ex- 


plains itself to the President of the Board of 

Re Houston's proposal in the House yesterday. 
Would rather suggest as a shipowner that the 
Government constitute every shipowner's office 
in the country Government controlled office. 
Returns of single ship companies, or amalgamated 
companies end of each six months, certified by 
chartered accountant to be sent your office. A 
fixed rate of 20 per cent, or as agreed, to be 
allowed as profit. All in excess to be taken by 
Government. Any steamer not coming up to 
agreed profit owing to Government service, or 
difficulties, this the Government make good. I 
am now in charge Examination Service, Bristol 
Channel, but would gladly volunteer take charge 
such a Department duration of war, if meets with 
approval, if arrangement could be made release 

He elaborated his point in a letter written the 
same day. It read : 


I took the liberty of to-day sending you 
what I am afraid you would consider a rather 
long wire, confirmation enclosed. I feel so 
strongly on this point, and as there are so many 
jealousies and difficulties in serving all ship- 
owners alike with reference to transports, etc., 
my view is, the course suggested herewith would 
give general satisfaction, more especially when I 


read that in the House of Commons Mr. Houston 
was going to ask that the tax on the profits of 
shipping be withdrawn from the Budget pro- 

The country has to get the money from some- 
where, and no one to-day is in a better position 
than the shipowner to bear a full share of the 
cost of the war. 

The only effect this letter had was to cause 
someone to dictate two formal replies. Nothing 
more was ever heard of the matter. 


As I sat opposite the Treasury Bench, the Ministers re- 
minded me of those marine landscapes not unusual on the 
coast of South America. You behold a range of exhausted 
volcanoes. DISRAELI. 

POLITICS did not really interest Sir Edward 
until he was left at a comparatively loose 
end in 1918. The war was over, he was out of 
business, and he found time hanging heavily on 
his hands. It had been suggested to him on 
many occasions that he ought to stand for 
Parliament, but he never lent a particularly 
attentive ear until he was approached by the 
Sailors' and Firemens' Union. They wanted him 
to contest Cardiff as a seamen's candidate. After 
considerable hesitation, Sir Edward accepted, and 
it is quite likely that he would have fought but 
for the fact that one of his oldest friends and 
former employers was the sitting member. The 
latter, it should be explained, had announced his 
intention of retiring ; he, however, changed his 
mind when the General Election came, and Sir 
Edward could not find it in him to fight one 
with whom he had been on friendly terms for 



It was, I believe, Mr. Walter Long who eventu- 
ally induced him to put himself forward as a 
candidate. Sir Edward was invited to contest 
a Cornish constituency Penryn and Falmouth. 
He stood as a Coalition Unionist, and his opponent 
was Sir Arthur Carkeek, who, naturally enough, 
was none too well pleased when as was once said 
to me in Cornwall " he discovered who he was 
up against." It was the return of the native with 
a vengeance. 

Sir Edward was returned by a majority of 235. 
It was a near thing, but it needs to be emphasised 
that even his friends were doubtful about the 
result. Up to the last moment it was firmly be- 
lieved that Sir Arthur Carkeek, who from the 
start had held an enormous advantage (he was 
Chairman of several Committees on the Cornwall 
County Council), had secured the majority of 
votes, so that in polling 235 votes more than his 
opponent Sir Edward did something that was a 
most distinct addition to the many feathers in his 
cap. He contested the seat following the Re- 
distribution a seat that had been looked upon 
as a great Liberal stronghold. Winning it was a 
very distinct triumph. 

He began his parliamentary career in a way 
that was typical of him. He had made up his 
mind to be the first M.P. to take his seat, and so 
as not to be late he arrived at Westminster at 
half-past five in the morning, under the impres- 

sion that the doors opened at 6 a.m. Finding 
that admission was denied him at that early hour, 
he returned to his club, but was back again long 
before the doors opened, and, as a matter of fact, 
waited on the kerb until eight o'clock. By a 
short head he just defeated Sir Harry Brittain, 
the Member for Acton, who had entered by 
another door. 

That, however, was but the first of a series of 
amusing happenings. The custom in the House 
of Commons is that members can only reserve 
seats by placing cards upon them before prayers. 
This is done each day. If the member, after 
claiming the seat, fails to attend prayers he 
automatically loses it, and it can be taken by 
anyone who desires it. 

At 2.45 Sir Edward duly attended prayers. 
Hardly had he taken his seat when Sir Henry 
Dalziel came along to say that he had occupied 
that particular place for thirty years. Would 
Sir Edward, under the circumstances, be generous 
enough to vacate it ? Sir Henry explained that 
he had to reply to the Address from the Throne 
and could not very well speak from any other 

Sir Edward moved at once, and that day, as 
there was a full House, he had to sit on the gang- 
way steps. On the next day he selected another 
seat on the opposite side of the House. Before 
he could make himself thoroughly comfortable he 


was faced by Mr. T. P. O'Connor, who observed 
that the seat was his. He (Mr. O'Connor) was 
the Father of the House, and, in any event, that 
particular portion of the Chamber was reserved 
for the Irish Party. 

The Member for Penryn and Falmouth moved 
again, and this time to a very uncomfortable spot. 
But the climax was reached on the third day. 
He reached the House at an early hour, booked 
his seat, attended prayers, and then settled him- 
self to listen to questions. Up came Sir Philip 
Magnus. By that time Sir Edward felt like a 
shuttlecock. He sat fast. 

" My seat," said Sir Philip. 

" Mine," answered Sir Edward. 

There was a whispered argument, and finally, 
to the intense enjoyment of those who were 
watching, Sir Philip turned on his heel and 
marched away. 

" Only dynamite will get me out of this," said 
Sir Edward, tapping the bench. " I have given 
way twice ; I stop here now." 

And he did. As a matter of fact, he has re- 
tained the seat which is immediately behind the 
Prime Minister ever since. He has a trick of his 
own which he invariably employs when anyone 
tries to capture it. He never argues or protests ; 
all he does is to plant himself on the intruder's 
knees. It never fails. 

And now let me deal with a phase of parlia- 


mentary life that, in my opinion at least, requires 
a little ventilation. It may be summed up in this 
one sentence : Should a Member of Parliament 
be bled ? 

It has been my unfortunate lot, on more than 
one occasion, to have to wade through countless 
and ridiculous appeals from people who seem 
to imagine that an M.P. is put on the earth simply 
to dive into his money-pocket ; to answer letters 
on every conceivable subject ; to interview people 
with grievances ; to waste valuable time in trying 
to convince certain folk that there is a limit to 
a man's resources. There is nothing in the world 
more remarkable than an M.P.'s letter-bag. 
When all the circulars, all the demands, all the 
appeals and resolutions of crank organisations 
are thrown aside there usually remain a fine batch 
of letters. It is no exaggeration to say that quite 
half of them are requests for financial assistance. 
An M.P. needs the wealth of the universe to 
satisfy everyone. 

For sheer, unadulterated nerve some of the 
letters that are sent about touch the limit. 
Appeals from churches and chapels and from 
similar organisations are, perhaps, to be expected ; 
they may even be called legitimate. It is the 
others that make men angry, and they, unfortu- 
nately, are in the majority. They pour down on 
an M.P. like water descending from the cracked 
bottom of a bucket. 


Sir Edward had not been a Member of Parlia- 
ment many minutes before he was snowed under 
with demands and appeals. And what has hap- 
pened since ? I have had an opportunity of 
examining his correspondence, and I can say, 
without exaggeration, that some of the requests 
are positively numbing. Letters have come from 
every corner of his constituency. He has been 
called upon to buy War Loans, War Bonds, and 
War Savings Certificates ; to take a heavy 
financial interest in Cornish tin mines ; to de- 
velop and resuscitate clay mines ; to provide 
money for quarries ; to build an abattoir ; to 
help every kind of society and organisation that 
the mind of man could invent. He has had 
appeals from the Red Cross, the Y.M.C.A., the 
Y.W.C.A., the Salvation Army, the Church Army, 
the Belgian, Austrian, and Armenian Relief 
Funds, and from almost every hospital from 
Devonport to Penzance. 

Any local effort on behalf of some well-known 
charitable work meant that he was immediately 
overwhelmed. Not only has he been asked to 
start collecting books for every conceivable kind 
of club, institute, reading-room, or sports organi- 
sation, but also for Dr. Barnardo's Homes, for 
the Waifs and Strays Society, for the Sir William 
Treloar Homes, for the British and Foreign 
Sailors' Society, for St. Dunstan's, for various 
missionary societies, and for the Boy Scouts, the 


Sea Scouts, the Girl Guides, and the Boys' 
Brigades. Every football and cricket club in his 
constituency seems to have made him either a 
President or Vice-President, and, in addition, he 
has been requested to provide funds or cups for 
race meetings, cattle shows, band contests, horse 
shows, horticultural shows, dog shows, fanciers' 
exhibitions, and a variety of other things. 

If a church or chapel needed a new organ or 
an old one repaired, or a fresh heating apparatus, 
or anything else of the kind, he was communi- 
cated with without delay. He has been asked to 
do something for countless bazaars and sales of 
work, and as for school treats well, it does seem 
that these are held all through the year in 
Cornwall ! It has to be remembered, too, that 
he sits for a Division which has a sea front of 
over forty miles. That means that he has re- 
ceived significant information about dozens of 

Those in need of loans write to him without 
hesitation. In some cases the appeals are for 
small sums, but in one case at least he was in- 
vited to forward 500. He was told that he was 
expected to contribute to memorials that were to 
be erected in almost every town and village of a 
constituency which has fifty polling stations ; he 
was informed that certain bands wanted new 
uniforms or new instruments ; that money was 
needed for singing festivals (for the Cornish, like 


the Welsh, are very musical) ; that this or that 
was to be done in a certain place, and that it was 
up to him to forward a cheque. 

It must have been taken for granted, when he 
was elected, that he had an inexhaustible supply 
of money. He was apparently looked upon he 
still is, for that matter as the one man who could 
fulfil every hope, desire, or need of certain of his 
constituents. He has been requested to find 
boarders for lodging-house keepers, to procure 
employment for the workless, to arrange appren- 
ticeships for boys in every industry, from en- 
gineering to seafaring ; to buy ponies, carts, 
traps, motor-cars, bicycles, tricycles, invalid 
chairs ; to look after the old and the infirm. It 
was mentioned, in one letter, that he could be 
sure of the support of the farmers if he would 
erect a certain building that they felt they needed. 
The cost was 6000. 

When will it be realised that, in addition to his 
duties at Westminster, the average Member of 
Parliament has to spend hours reading through 
the enormous number of letters and resolutions 
that are forwarded him. Sir Edward's post bag 
averages between forty and fifty letters a day, 
and, in addition, there are always at least a dozen 
newspapers. Everyone, of course, expects an 
answer by return. Let me give some samples of 
the letters the Member for Penryn-Falmouth has 


This may be called number one : 


I wrote you some time ago on behalf of a 
poor woman I know who through the War is in 
slight difficulties, and a little help now would be 
her salvation. I mentioned in my letter 50 but 
since then she has been able to bring it down to 
40. Any amount would be a help to her, how- 
ever small. I daresay there are many such, but 
this I know is a most deserving case. I might 
add I gave my first vote (of which I am very 
proud) to you and hope you will long be our 
Member. I am sure Truro is looking forward to 
your visit in April or May. 

Number two is a little longer : 


I am writing this quite unknown to my 
husband, but as he is so upset about his misfor- 
tune I felt grieved myself to see him he is a man 
nearly 60 years of age and served 2J years in 
India and Aden during the War being a territorial 
for over 36 years. After he came home he saved 
up his little pocket money and bought 2 pigs 
thinking it would help in our living, and they 
seemed to have done very well up to a few days 
ago when something took the largest one and it 
suddenly died a pig worth between 8 and ten 
pounds so I thought that perhaps you could send 
us a little donation to help to replace it we are 5 
in family to live out of his earnings 2. 12/- a 


week so you can see it is a terrible loss on a poor 
man. I quite understand you are plagued terrible 
by those begging but I am not out for making 
money it is a case of replacing a big loss on one 
who cannot. 

Number three is quite short : 


I am asking you if you can send a Dona- 
tion towards our Skittle Team. In helping us to 
succeed in getting twelve medals for our Players 
it will be thankfully received and there are your 
own supporters this being the first we have asked 
for. Trusting you will Do your Best. 

Number four is a quite lengthy document : 


I hope you will excuse the liberty I am 
takeing in writeing you this letter as I know you 
must be very busy. In the first Place I must tell 
you who I am and where I am from befor I ask 
a favour of you. I am not from falmouth I 
was borne in .... I except you knew my 
Grandfather he worked all his time in Redruth 

in the house that Mr. of the live in 

now. my Mother and father are dead. I have 2 

Aunts living in and when the Election was 

on they wrote me to vote for Sir Edward as they 
know Him well Sir I am telling you this so that 
you shant think I am a froude. as I am going 
to ask you to be so kind as to do me a kiendness 


and that is if you will lend me 15 pounds as I 
have been ill for a long time. My husband joined 
up 4 days after war was declired. I do not know 
the name of the first ship he was on, but he 

offered hisself for the and was on her from 

the start to finish he was demobilised in Jan. 13th 
1919 and was out of work until June and then 
was out again the second week in Oct. until the 
19th of Jan. this year. I was in bed ill 9 week 
and then the Dr. ordered me to Hospital and I 
was there 5 week and have been ill again since 
Xmas and with my illness and my husband out 
of work it took all the bit of money he had and I 
had to go behind with my rent and rates and I 
have no one that I could ask to do me a kiend- 
ness for a little while to give me a chance to get 
on my feet again. I have a pound a week and 
shall be able to take in sawing soon now I am 
getting better if you would be so kind as to lend 
me the 15 pounds as my house is sold and I have 
notice to go out on the 25th of the month my old 
landlady is dead and the house had to be sold if 
she was liveing she would let me pay as I could. 
I want to stay here if I could until the end of the 
year until my husband come back he have gone 
through enough in the war without comeing home 
to no house I have always had my own little home 
and I dont mix with anyone I keep to myself 
when my husband come home we shall move 
somewhere where there is more shipping. If 
Dear Sir you will do me this kiendness I will pay 
you back every month as much as I can, and if 


at any time there is anything I could do for you, 
or work for you in any where I shall be only too 
pleased to do anything for your kiendness, I have 
never known what it was to be in want befor 
and I have been worried afrid they will turn me 
out that I thought on you. 

I will Pay you back sir if you will be so kind 
as to lend it me. once again I must ask you to 
excuse this long letter. 

The above, I may mention, was an appeal that 
was promptly answered. Letter number five 
was a different sort of request : 


Seeing the donations are small for our 
Regatta I am appealing to you for a something 
toward it, this is the first time we have asked you 
for any subscription on any occasion. The 
Regatta will come off on the 30th of this month, 
if you have anything to give I shall be pleased to 
get it in a few days. 

Number six has a musical ring : 


I have been asked by the members of the 
Brass Band to ask you to kindly assist in pro- 
viding a sum of money for the purchase of a 
Double B flat Bass, which will amount to about 
30 the Band has done a great deal of good work 
in the village which is very much appreciated. 
I trust therefore that in the circumstances you 


will kindly pardon me for taking the liberty of 
asking for your kind assistance towards the object 
referred to. 

Number seven the last has at least an ex- 
cellent finish : 


I have taken the farm at and as 

everything is so expensive and I have a lot of 
Green crop probably enough to feed 20 Bullocks 
this winter if I had the money to buy them I 
have bought 18 Bullocks 10 Breedings ewes 20 
pigs 40 Fowls 2 horses I would like to know if 
you could lend me 500 to help me stock the Farm 
up full I will pay you again soon as possible only 
I was in a little farm and the landlord want it 
for himself I am a married man. wife and two 
children and a Church member and a teetotaler 
if you could do me a faver I should be delighted 
and would ever remember you in the future as a 
friend in need is a friend indeed and I have a 
great interest in farming and have a passion for 
making progress. 

But what happens when the sorely tried M.P. 
gets so sick and tired that he puts his foot down ? 
In nine cases out of ten he is immediately labelled 
as mean and uncharitable. He is told, in effect, 
that a seat in the House of Commons is an ex- 
pensive luxury, and that if he wishes to retain it 
he must expect to be bled. 

And one of his numerous small friends 

To face page 218 


9 AUG1926 



Sir Edward had only been a Member of Parlia- 
ment for a couple of hours when he was called 
upon by four people who all wanted subscriptions 
for something or another. Next, a lady, who did 
not think it worth while to give her name, asked 
for 50 ; and then, in succession, he was re- 
quested to provide a dinner for the officials at a 
show, and to purchase, among other things, a 
horse and cart, a cot, and a wooden leg ! In less 
than twelve months he had over three hundred 
appeals for subscriptions. And then, quite sud- 
denly, the storm broke. Sir Edward had courage 
enough to resent being regarded as a sort of 
automatic shoveller-out of money. 

" Because he refused to maintain some political 
clubs, the members of which pay four shillings per 
year for their billiards, papers, politics, and com- 
forts," said a Cornishman with whom I discussed 
the affair, " Sir Edward has been 'cussed,' dis- 
cussed, boycotted, talked-about, lied-about, lied- 
to, and ' held-up ' in some of the local papers, all 
because he wouldn't supply 480 per annum ! " 

It was at the annual meeting of a Unionist Club 
that it was reported that Sir Edward had failed 
to pay his subscription. The members, after 
hearing the Treasurer's long statement, decided 
that they would not elect him as their President. 

There was a laugh hidden away somewhere in 
this, and the London newspaper reporters were 


quick to see it. They interviewed Sir Edward, 
and the papers, generally, devoted columns to 
what eventually became a topic of the day. It 
transpired that Sir Edward had asked the Com- 
mittee of the Unionist Club what another Presi- 
dent had given them, and on being told that the 
amount was 5 he immediately offered to give 
the same. But that, apparently, was not enough. 
What was wanted was a sufficient sum to pay 
the rent, and provide papers and other things. 
Sir Edward declined on the grounds that his 
majority was such that he was not entitled to 
think that he had won the seat for all time. The 
amount required was 480. 

The club habitues were told plainly, but 
politely, that it was their duty to pay for their 
own amusements. For four shillings per year 
they seemingly wanted a club where they could 
play billiards, enjoy their papers, and generally 
pass a pleasant evening. In a word, Sir Edward 
jibbed. He said, in effect, that he did not care 
whether he was elected President or not, nor did 
he much care whether he represented the Divi- 
sion. He declined, as one paper put it, to be 
" blackmailed in this fashion." He received, he 
said, six or seven begging letters every morning, 
and they spoilt his breakfast. He intended to 
spend his money as he liked, and if they were not 
prepared to take what he gave them they could 
do the other thing. 


This characteristic outburst definitely placed 
the fat in the fire. The topic, of course, was one 
that exactly suited the London Press, and they 
ran it for all it was worth. Such headlines as the 
following were common during the next few 
days : 

" M.P.'s Stand against Blackmail." " Refusal 
to be Bled." " Calls on M.P.'s." " Millionaire's 
stand-up Fight." 

The Lobby Correspondent of the " Western 
Mail " summarised Parliamentary opinion very 
excellently by writing : 

Sir Edward NicholPs stand-up fight with his 
supporters in the Cornish Division he repre- 
sents has created immense interest in the House 
of Commons. Some people were saying to- 
night that he must have imperilled his seat in 
the event of an early election. Perhaps he has, 
but, in any case, Sir Edward Nicholl is not the 
kind of man to allow a question like that to 
interfere with his independence of judgment 
or courageous method of dealing. He would 
have no difficulty in finding another seat, 
though it may be hoped that the decent people 
of his Constituency will recognise that this con- 
stant blackmailing of M.P.'s does not make for 
purity in public life or for honesty in political 
work. If matters develop into a stand-up fight 
between Sir Edward Nicholl and his supporters, 
he has a good deal of other information to give 


upon the subject. I hear he was actually 
approached the morning after the result of the 
poll was declared with a view to his under- 
taking liabilities amounting to 480 for clubs 
and billiard premises in and around Falmouth. 
His reply was that he thought the life of the 
Government rather precarious and his own 
majority too small to afford an assurance that 
he was to be a Member for life. That is just 
like Sir Edward Nicholl. 

In the main, the newspapers were on Sir 
Edward's side. One Cornish organ, representing 
Liberal views, took a very decided stand and 
incidentally mentioned one or two items of in- 
formation ^which were very much to the point. 
The writer said, in part : 

Falmouth in the past has admittedly been 
spoon-fed from the political standpoint. No 
member, Liberal or Tory, has been able to hold 
Falmouth without he has paid for it. Falmouth 
has a very bad reputation in this respect, and 
I for one am delighted to see that Sir Edward 
Nicholl is not going to be bound by the de- 
moralising practices of the past. I remember 
on one occasion going to the borough with my 
car to take voters to the poll for the Liberal 
candidate. Before the day was far advanced 
I was asked to go to certain " local pubs." to 
fetch them. That was more than even I could 
stand fetching Liberal voters from the 
" pubs." So I packed off home. 


This, from another Cornish paper, is particu- 
larly interesting : 

When the annual meeting of the Divisional 
Council of Penryn-Falmouth Division met at 
Truro, Mr. Oscar Blackford inquired the 
amount of Sir Edward NicholPs annual sub- 
scription, and the answer was that the Mem- 
ber's was the largest individual subscription. 
Mr. S. Purcell remarked that as an Association 
they ought to be ashamed of themselves. 

Mr. I. P. Crewes asked : " Was it derogatory 
to the Division because they had an exception- 
ally generous man in the Member ? " 

Mr. Purcell answered that such a large con- 
stituency Association ought to be self-support- 
ing- Canon Groves said that in one part of the 
Division there was a complaint because Sir 
Edward did not give ; and here they were 
complaining because he gave too much. 

Sir Edward faced his constituents without loss 
of time and, as was to be expected, every effort 
was made to pour oil on troubled waters. Resolu- 
tions were passed thanking him for his gifts, and 
generally it was made clear to him that the dis- 
satisfied only represented a very small minority, 
which was as it should be, for I have reason 
to know that he has given very liberally indeed 
to Cornwall, and to the Penryn-Falmouth Division 
in particular. 

I asked him to let me see his list of donations 


for the first ten months of 1920 he had pre- 
viously subscribed thousands of pounds in various 
directions and I found that in January and 
February he wrote cheques for nearly 5500. In 
March, April, and May he expended 150 ; in 
June and July over 140 ; in August, September, 
and October nearly 230. That means that in 
ten months alone he made gifts amounting to 
over 6000. Add to this little items like 140 for 
a playground, 200 for a sanatorium, 500 for a 
hospital, 90 for a Discharged Soldiers' Fund, 
100 for a show, 100 on the occasion of a dis- 
aster, 100 for a band contest, 60 for various 
cups, 1000 for a War Memorial, 50 for a girls' 
club, 50 for an ex-soldiers' club, 105 for a 
bazaar, 105 for another War memorial, and a 
large sum which went to meet the expenses con- 
nected with the defence of a Cornishman who 
had been accused of murdering a German who 
had assaulted his daughter, and it will be seen 
that Cornwall hadn't much to complain of. 

Cornwall, as a matter of fact, didn't complain, 
as this paragraph from a paper which had opposed 
him during the election shows : 

Special interest attaches to Sir Edward's 
munificence to Redruth, for which he has re- 
ceived the thanks of the Redruth Urban 
Council. Many may have been puzzled by the 
fact that this retired Cornish shipping magnate, 
who gave away something like 100,000 for 


hospital and kindred purposes before leaving 
Cardiff, should have quarrelled with Falmouth 
Unionists, accusing them of blackmail, and 
saying that the appeals for money he received 
every morning spoilt his breakfast. 

The explanation is not that this Cornish 
knight wishes to hoard his fortune, or that he 
has changed his nature as soon as he enters 
Parliament. It only means that he is a warm- 
hearted, choleric, impulsive, and masterful 
Cornishman, who can be led, but not driven, 
and who will not pay out money to ease the 
pockets of Falmouth Unionists who are quite 
well able to contribute a reasonable amount to 
the upkeep of the club. 

Hard upon the back of declaring that he will 
spend his money as he chooses, Sir Edward goes 
to Redruth and increases his gift to 5000, 
which ensures the enlargement of the West 
Cornwall Miners' Hospital and the carrying out 
of the War Memorial. Anyhow, Sir Edward 
has proved that, although begging letters may 
spoil his breakfast, drawing cheques for 5000 
or 50,000 doesn't spoil his dinners. 

Let it be whispered, however, that Sir Edward 
found the House of Commons very little to his 
liking. From the beginning he was out of his 
element ; there was too much talk and far too 
little accomplished. It was hardly to be expected 
that he would be a meek-and-mild follower of his 
Party. That would have gone very much against 


the grain, and the truth is that there was nothing 
he detested more than to be ushered, like a sud- 
denly captured sheep, into a particular lobby. 
More often than not " out of sheer cussedness," 
as someone once told me he made a bee-line for 
the other lobby. 

Here is his own view of Parliament. I quote 
it from a speech he once delivered at a dinner 
party in the House of Commons : 

Whenever I look at the Government benches 
I am impressed by the fact that we have a 
Coalition of lawyers. There are no less than 
twenty-four of them on the Treasury Bench. 
Let us have a coalition by all means, but let it 
be a coalition of the best business brains in the 
country. Some of the men on the Treasury Bench 
are undoubtedly able, but lawyers are not always 
the best business men. To have a lawyer at the 
head of the Board of Trade, for example, is 
wrong. Every Department of State should have 
at its head a man who is thoroughly conversant 
with the details of his particular office. . . . But, 
to refer again to the curse of the country, official- 
dom I detest it more than I can say. Yet there 
are men, both inside and outside the House of 
Commons, who would add to the present unhappy 
conditions by nationalising mines and railways, 
and shipping and docks, and that notwithstanding 
the fact that since the telephone service was 
nationalised it has become a charge upon the 
State, instead of being a dividend-paying com- 


mercial concern. From any more State control, 
and from the creation of more officials, may the 
good Lord deliver us. 

It may, indeed, be well set down here that of 
all the things he has undertaken, that which he 
likes least is politics. But in the years to come, 
when Members of Parliament are discussed, the 
name of Sir Edward Nicholl will always crop up, 
if only for the fact that he was one of the very 
few M.P.'s of his time who rarely missed prayers. 
It used to be said, as a matter of fact, that on 
the very few occasions when he was absent that 
the Chaplain found it difficult to proceed with 
the service. He seemed to realise that Sir 
Edward's presence was necessary. 


An acre in Middlesex is better than a Principality in 
Utopia. MACAULAY. 

IT is a far cry from Pool, in Cornwall, to 
Shepperton, in Middlesex. There is, too, a 
wide difference between a six-roomed cottage, 
a berth on board ship (with a room 6 ft. by 12 ft.), 
and an estate of 900 acres ; quite as much, in 
fact, as there is between a drummer-boy and a 
Lord of the Manor. Sir Edward Nicholl, how- 
ever, has bridged the distance that separates the 
former from the latter, or, to put it more clearly, 
he has had the felicity of experiencing the 
emotions that come to both. 

In 1918, just before the General Election, he 
purchased one of the most historic residences in 
the country Littleton Park, Middlesex. 

For months he had been searching the county 
for a place that would suit him. In all he visited 
and inspected thirty-seven, but it was not until 
he blew in I use the phrase advisedly on Sir 
Woodman Burbidge, head of Harrods, that he 
found what he wanted. 

44 What I wish to buy," said Sir Edward, " is 


H g 




9 AUG1926 




some place where I can walk straight in and hang 
up my hat. Got anything like that ? " 

Sir Woodman, who was his father's executor, 
mentioned Littleton Park. 

" Can I buy it as it stands ? " asked Sir 

" You can," said Sir Woodman. 

" Everything furniture, grounds, cattle - 
houses, poultry, pigs, etc. ? I mean, can I go 
straight in and hang up my hat ? " persisted Sir 

" Practically," answered Sir Woodman. 

Within a few hours Sir Edward was the owner 
of the famous old place where kings and queens 
had often found entertainment. One wonders 
if, when he hung up his hat, his mind went back 
to the hole in the ceiling in the little house at 

The photographs at the end of this book give 
a very much better idea of the property than 
anything that could be written. But one or two 
facts of interest may be mentioned. The house 
was built, if not from the plans, at all events 
under the direction of Sir Christopher Wren, and 
through varying vicissitudes it has retained that 
quality of Dutch solidity and dignified repose 
which the great architect contrived to impart to 
Kensington Palace and to Hampton Court. 
There is a lake two and a half miles long ; a de- 
liciously quaint little church ; and boat-houses 


and summer-houses that were once used at 
Buckingham Palace and Windsor by Queen 
Victoria and members of the Royal Family. 

The principal hall is one of the outstanding 
features of the place. Its walls are encased in 
oak and hung with trophies of the hunt, old 
weapons, and rare curios. Along its sides are 
carved oak chests and quaint settees bearing 
priceless china and beautiful bronzes. Round the 
top of the hall is a spacious gallery lined with oak. 
In all there are fifty-two rooms, and of these 
perhaps the walnut room, fitted with carved wood 
that once adorned Walsingham House, is the 
finest, although for real comfort the owner's den 
would be hard to beat. 

In the manor hall there are panels representing 
historic naval and military events. These were 
formerly in Burlington House. Out on the lake 
there are three ornamental boat-houses and many 
pavilions ; but the great glory of the place is the 
grounds. Here King William IV sought distrac- 
tion from the affairs of State ; here, too, King 
Henry VII took part in many a brilliant hunt. 
One can drive for four miles without leaving the 
park ; whilst in the church of the estate one may 
gaze on the shell-torn colours of the Grenadier 
Guards which were placed there in 1855 by 
General Wood, whose ancestors, for more than 
three centuries, had their home at Littleton. 
But to me the most interesting thing has always 


been the tablet in the hall, which tells the story 
of the house and of all who have lived there. 
This book would be incomplete if I did not re- 
produce it in full. It will be found on the two 
following pages. 

To crown all, there is the now famous annexe 
from Westminster Abbey which has been re- 
erected in the grounds. It was in this that King 
Edward was robed for his coronation. In every 
detail the re- erection is complete. 

Sir Edward has considerably improved the 
estate since he bought it. His chicken farm is one 
of the best in Great Britain ; there is a miniature 
railway less elaborate, but probably more use- 
ful, than the one at " The Nook " running from 
the farmhouses where the prize cattle are shel- 
tered to a field some distance away ; whilst near 
the church there is the best kitchen-garden I have 
ever seen. 

But there is little pomp and circumstance at 
Littleton Park. Despite its size, it is " homy " 
in the best sense of the word, and it is the owner 
who is responsible for that. It is impossible to 
be his guest without feeling thoroughly at home. 
When he is not at the House of Commons, or 
taking a part in some financial deal, he farms on 
a fairly elaborate scale. Chickens, I think, are, 
and have been for some time, his particular 
hobby ; but he spends a good deal of his time 
among his cattle. His herds of Shorthorns and 



Luttleton 13th cent. Litlinton 14th cent. 




1042-1066 1 


Westminster Monks. 

Edward the f 

Confessor ' 


Achi House Carl, a servant of the King. 

1066-1087 ) 


Doomsday Book, said to be In Laleham. 

William I / 

Robert Blunt, tenant in chief. 

1100-1135 I 

Gilbert Blunt. 

Henry I / 

1154-1189 X 


William Blunt, Baron of Irworth (one Knight fee), son of Gilbert Blunt. 

Henry II f 

1216-1272 \ 


William Blunt. Killed in the battle of Evesham. 

Henry HI J 

1327-1377 > 


Agustine Waley and Maud his Wife. 

Edward HI f 

John Gogh. 


Edward de Bohun and Philippa his Wife, and John de Wytheewell, and 

Matilda his Wife, Manor of Luttelyngton. 

1422-1461 ) 

Henry VI 1 


William Somerton, Esq.. John Ryppley. Esq., and William Bokeland and 

John Talent and Matilda his Wife the Manor of Litlyngton. 


William Bokeland and Alice his Wife and John Karkeke. Clerk, and Guy 

Perkelee and Elizabeth his Wife the Manor of Litlyngton. 


John Norys and Thomas Heyward and William Bokeland. Esq., and Alice 

his Wife the Manor of Litlyngton. 

1509-1547 > 


Abbey and Convent of Westminster. 

Henry VUI/ 


Sir George Puttenham. Kt.. Sir Peter Vavasor, Kt., Richard Lyster. 

Attorney of the Lord the King, Andrew Lylyard, Esq.. and Anthony 

Windsore, Esq., and Robert Markham, Gent, and Ellen his Wife. 

Daughter and Heir of John Sapurton, the Manor or Lordship of Lytte- 

lynton with appurts Warranty against John Abbot, of Westminster. 


Edward Lord Windsor, Lessee under the Crown. 

1558-1603 -v 


Richard Spicer and Agnes his Wife, and George Ludlow. Esq., the Manor 


of Lyttleton. 

Elizabeth J_ 


Francis Vaughan. 


Richard Spicer. 


John Bertram. 


Henry Newdigate. 


Edward Earl of Hertford, son of Anne Duchess of Somerset, widow of the 


1603-1625 ) 


William, Grandson and Heir of Edward, Earl of Hertford. 

James I t 

1625-1649 \ 


Daniel and Thomas Moore. 

Charles I J 


Nathaniel Goodlad. 

1727-1760 I 


George H J 


Gilbert Lambell. 

1760-1820 X 


Thomas Wood (married Ann Jones), died 1799. 

George HI / 


Thomas Wood (married Mary, daughter and heir of Sir Edward William). 

died 1835. 

1830-1837 \ 


Thomas Wood (married Lady Caroline, sister of Marquis of Londonderry), 

William IV / 

died 1860. 

1837-1901 ) 


Thomas Wood (married Francis Smyth), died 1872. 

Victoria f 


Thomas Wood (married Honble. Rhona Cecilia Emily Tollemache). 

1901-1910 1 


Sir Richard Burbidge. Baronet, C.B.E. 

Edward VII / 


1910- > 


Commander Sir Edward Nicboll. R.N.R.. M.P. 

George V j 



Lutlynton. Littleyngton. Littleton. 


Westminster Monks. 

Achi House Carl, a servant of the King 
Estrild, a Nun. 

Gilbert Blunt. 

Robert de Littleton, held of the Blunts. 

Robert de Winton held Manor as tenant of Robert de Leveland 
Rent 1 Ib. of Pepper. 

Edward de Winton held by service i'hs o f a Knight's fee 
Edward de Winton. 

Sir Guy de Brian. Standard Bearer to the King. 
William de Perkelee, yearly rent 1 Ib. of Pepper. 

Guy de Perkelee. 

Simon de Perkelee, Guy de Perkelee, sons of Guy de Perkelee. 

William de Bokeland. 

Guy de Perkelee and Wife f r<J ". Agnes Wife of William and Nephew of Guy 

William de Bokeland under tenure lapsed. 

Wood of Littleton, formerly of Fulborne, County Cambridge 

Settled at Fulborne. 

Aiexander Wood (died). 

John Wood (married Elizabeth Hylton). died. 

Nicholas Wood (married Elizabeth, heir of Edward Clopton). died. 

Edward Wood (married Elizabeth Chicheley. of the family of Archbishop Chicheley). died. 

Sir John Wood (married Susan Prettyman), died. 
Nicholas Wood (married Anne Ferrour). died. 

Edward Wood (Alderman of London, settled at Littleton) (married Susannah Harvey). 

Edward Wood (died). 

Thomas Wood (married Dorothy Spicer), Ranger of Hampton Court 1664-1723 (died). 

Edward Wood (married Elizabeth Bridger). died. 

Gilbert Lambell. 

Thomas Wood (married Ann Jones), died 1799. 

Thomas Wood (married Mary, daughter and heir of Sir Edward William), died 1835. 

Thomas Wood (married Lady Caroline, sister of Marquis of Londonderry), died 1860. 

Thomas Wood (married Francis Smyth), died 1872. 

Thomas Wood (married Honble. Rhona Cecilia Emily Tollemache). 

Sir Richard Burbidge, Baronet. 

Sir Woodman Burbidge. Baronet, C.B.E. 

Commander Sir Edward Nicholl. K.N.R.. M.P. 


Guernseys are, I am assured by those who know, 
at least comparable with any others in the 

It is a little quaint to watch this farmer, who 
was once a ship's engineer, at work in his grounds, 
but, needless to remark, there is method in every- 
thing he does. When he builds a new chicken 
house he does so with odds and ends that would, 
in the ordinary way, go to waste, but the chicken 
houses, when built, are of a certainty the only 
buildings of their kind in the world. There is 
one near the dairy it comes back to my mind 
because when it was in course of construction I 
acted as unskilled labourer to Sir Edward that 
caused a visitor to remark in my hearing, " It 
isn't at all a bad thing to be a chicken in this 
neighbourhood." I thoroughly agreed. 

What is more, I really believe that Sir Edward 
now knows as much about Shorthorns as he does 
about engines. He has one wonderful beast that 
was bred by the King at Windsor ; but to me, 
a novice, every cow or bull I looked at seemed 
wonderful. I never knew so many things could 
be said about a Shorthorn until I heard Sir 
Edward speak on the subject. He farms as he 
once ran ships, the only difference being that, as 
he now has no shareholders to consider, he does 
not bother his head to any extent about 

But that he will make his farming pay is one 


of the certainties. It couldn't be otherwise. It 
seems to be ordained that whatever he turns his 
hand to shall show a profit. It may be knack or 
it may be luck, but I prefer to think that the 
real secret is that Sir Edward weds to adapta- 
bility an untiring desire to make a success of any 
job he undertakes. 


View the whole scene, with critic judgment scan, 
And then deny him merit if you can. 
Where he falls short, 'tis nature's fault alone ; 
Where he succeeds, the merit's all his own. 


EFERENCE was made in an earlier chapter 
JL\J to what at one time was called the " Nicholl 
Luck." There was and probably still is a be- 
lief in Cardiff that Sir Edward Nicholl always had 
the fates on his side. There may be something 
in the theory ; but isn't luck the word that is 
always tacked on to the man who has been 
successful ? There are people who cannot see an 
opportunity when it is placed before their eyes, 
others who have not the courage of their convic- 
tions, still others who are content to plod along 
with the crowd. 

Sir Edward was never one of these. If he saw 
a chance he took it ; he was ever ready to throw 
himself heart and soul into any business propo- 
sition that attracted his attention. It was said, 
when he started the " Hall " Line, that he was 
doomed to failure ; it was published broadcast 
that his belief in turret ships was proof of his 



incapacity. In ten years he forced his critics to 
take up their dictionaries and search for super- 
latives. If luck means the same thing as hard 
work, then it may be stated, with absolute cer- 
tainty, that he has been lucky ; but when 
attempts are made to assess his success too little 
thought is given to those heavy days when he 
was moulding and constructing a business that, 
at the start, was as small as anything could 
well be. 

He has had his difficulties ; he knows what it 
is to be without money ; he has experienced de- 
pression and anxiety ; but the big thing to re- 
member is that he was always willing to back his 
judgment and his ability against any proposal or 
happening with which he was faced. It was no 
small thing for an apprentice to throw up his job 
and seek for fortune in another part of the 
country ; no small thing to decide to become a 
shipowner. Pluck, and not luck, is the word that 
should be applied to Sir Edward Nicholl by the 
assessors of his success. 

But he has been fortunate in one respect. He 
was born with splendid health and equally 
splendid stamina. His illnesses may be counted 
on the fingers of one hand, and even the accidents 
which befell him are very few and far between. 
He lacerated his right arm at Cam Brea, fractured 
a finger at Swindon, broke some ribs at Liverpool, 
suffered a scalp wound at Sulina, smashed an arm 


while motoring in Cornwall, and badly damaged 
a foot at Littleton Park in 1918. 

But how many men of his age and of his 
wanderings have got off so lightly ? I am re- 
minded, though, that it was while he was hobbling 
about on an injured foot that he was requested, 
by a member of the Government, to journey to 
Derby to preside at a big luncheon held in con- 
nection with the Trades Union Congress. He had 
smashed his foot by imitating Mr. Gladstone he 
had busied himself cutting down trees in his 

He was by no means fit for the journey, but 
he consented to make it without hesitation. In 
the train he came into contact with an elderly 
American gentleman whom he had never before 
seen. They chatted and conversed on various 
topics, but it was not until the day of the luncheon 
that Sir Edward discovered the name of his 
fellow-traveller. He was Mr. Samuel Gompers, 
the President of the American Federation of 
Labour, and he sat on Sir Edward's left. The 
neighbour on his right was Mr. Hughes, the 
Premier of Australia. The latter subsequently 
spent a week at Littleton Park. The luncheon 
was one of the biggest of its kind ever given. 
There were 950 present, and later Sir Edward 
presided at an equally big meeting. 

I am reminded, too, of yet another function. 
It was a dinner at Redruth, given by the Urban 


District Council in honour of Sir Edward. It was 
on that occasion that he was presented with the 
little silver drum he now values so much. It is 
a point of interest that the Chairman was Sir 
Arthur Carkeek, who afterwards opposed Sir 
Edward when he fought the Penryn-Falmouth 

Redruth had never before known such a 
gathering, and I doubt whether one of the kind 
has been held since. Everybody who was any- 
body was present, and in reply to the toast, 
" Our Guest," Sir Edward made a speech that 
later occupied considerable space in the West 
Country papers. In part, he said : 

I would like all of you for one moment to place 
yourselves in my position. This is the most 
embarrassing moment of my life. I appreciate 
more than words can express this demonstration 
in my honour. I notice the very handsome 
present, which I need hardly say I shall always 
appreciate. As Mr. Launder has indicated, I did 
beat the drum in Redruth Band, and I have been 
beating the drum more or less ever since ; but 
Mr. Launder is determined, evidently, that I 
shall beat it no longer. The drum presented to 
me has no sticks. (Loud laughter.) 

Mr. Launder : " I beg Sir Edward's pardon. 
Here are the drumsticks " (handing Sir Edward 
the silver sticks amid more amusement). 

" The omission is repaired ! " exclaimed Sir 


Edward. It is difficult for me to go back thirty- 
eight years without strange feelings. To come 
back to be respected and honoured by the citizens 
of one's birthplace is something worth living for 
and something indeed to be proud of. Wherever 
I have been I have never failed to notify the fact 
that I am Cornish. Cardiff is the home of my 
adoption for many years, and I hope you will not 
think it said in a spirit of bravado when I men- 
tion that the people there have done all in their 
power to make me feel that I was appreciated. 
I have lived there for a very long time. When I 
was President of the Cardiff Cornish Association 
we had the biggest dinner ever held in the town. 
Everything came from Cornwall even the solo- 
ists and string band. We showed the Welsh 
people that everything in life worth living for 
came from Cornwall. (Cheers.) I well remember 
joining the Redruth Volunteers during the time 
Major Hocking was in command of the company. 
I was in the church choir at the time a little 
chorister, and a very nice little boy, too ! I 
have been beating the drum ever since. I say 
that with due modesty, because mother always 
said I was the most modest boy in the family. 
I have tried to live up to it. Modesty first, but 
do not let anyone stand in your way if you can 
help it. 

Sir Edward, of course, has a favourite motto. 
He has been asked on numerous occasions to make 
it public. I think it is very typical of him ; and 


that despite the fact that the motto is in reality 
a revised version of an old song. Here it is : 

Work, work, work, and be contented 

As long as you've enough to buy a meal, 

For your work, you may rely, 

Will bring you fortune by and by 

If you only keep your shoulder to the wheel. 

I once asked him which was his lucky day. We 
all have them. He votes for June 17th, his birth- 
day. He is a distinct believer in luck as it applies 
to that day. It was on June 17th of a certain 
year that he made his first big shipping deal. He 
sold two steamers to a Norwegian firm. It was 
also on the 17th that he purchased one of his 
most profitable steamers, the " Welbeok Hall " ; 
on the same day in another year he completed 
his deal with Messrs. Furness, Withy & Co. for 
Nicholl Steamships, Ltd. ; whilst it was some- 
where near the same date when Hansen's took 
over the " Hall " Line. Many other noteworthy 
milestones in his career are identified with the 
17th June. 

It is his ability to recognise a good thing when 
he sees it that is one of his chief characteristics. 
Some of his financial speculations and they have 
been very many would make an interesting 
chapter that would throw light on some of the 
biggest deals of the past four years. There was 
a period when he held so many Dunlop Shares 
that the mere memory of the number takes one's 


breath away. He was, for a time, a member of 
the committee of the greatest financial combina- 
tion in the country. 

He can make up his mind more quickly than 
any other man I have ever known. I recollect 
one evening at Littleton Park when he speculated 
a small fortune before the man who was telling 
him the Stock Exchange news of the day could 
get properly into his stride. I have an idea that 
he believes in what the Americans call " hunches." 
He relies on his intuition to a very large extent, 
but, for all that, it would be a terribly hard job 
to get him interested in anything that he did not 
really like. 

He has never had many hobbies. I believe 
that when he was an engineer he went in for 
stamp collecting on a fairly large scale, but that 
didn't last long, although he is still something of 
an enthusiast, for the collection was still incom- 
plete when he was made an offer that tempted 
him so much that he fell. Nor has sport par- 
ticularly attracted him. He played football in 
his boyhood days, and he has always had a liking 
for boxing ; but he only tried golf once. He 
made three swipes at the ball, nearly missed it on 
each occasion, and immediately decided it had 
very little fascination for him. But he loves a 
good horse ; hunting is perhaps the thing he likes 
best, next to tinkering with an engine. I have 
deliberately omitted mentioning the building of 


chicken houses because that has been referred to 

But chief of all is his affection for children. 
He is never so happy as when he is surrounded 
by them, and he is most distinctly seen at his 
best when the grounds of Littleton Park are 
dotted with youngsters who are given leave to 
do as they like. An American poet once said that 
" there never was nuthin', that could or can, git 
all the good from the heart of a man, like the 
hands of a little child." Sir Edward, I know, 
subscribes to that. He believes there is nothing 
in life so beautiful as the happy laugh of a child. 
Certain toyshops must look upon him as their 
very best customer ; for myself, I do not know 
of anyone who has devoted so much time to the 
manufacture of happiness for little ones. 

He has few aversions, but there is one person 
he cannot stand. That is the man or woman 
who attempts to be other than natural. He 
loathes affectation. " Give me a man who is 
himself," he onoe remarked at a dinner party, 
" and, whatever his other defects, I'll put up with 
him." He cordially dislikes the people who rarely 
open their mouths save to pay compliments ; he 
has no use at all for the kind of man who, whilst 
exuding friendliness, keeps his eye on the main 

The giving of dinner parties has become such a 
habit with him that it might almost be regarded 


as a form of recreation. Somebody's birthday ? 
Right ! The party is arranged at once. Not so 
long ago Sir Edward heard it whispered that the 
Prince of Wales was anxious to meet certain 
members of the Labour Party. This paragraph 
from the " Western Mail " tells the story fully : 

Sir Edward Nicholl, M.P., had practically all 
the members of the Labour Party as his guests 
at the House of Commons to-night in anticipa- 
tion of having the honour of meeting the Prince 
of Wales. His Royal Highness had quite pro- 
visionally accepted the invitation yesterday, 
when in the City he met Sir Edward Nicholl. 
The King had the other day expressed, in reply 
to an inquiry, his desire that the Prince should 
have the opportunity of meeting the Labour 
Members of Parliament more intimately than 
it had hitherto been possible, and Sir Edward 
Nicholl readily agreed to become host. It 
appears, however, that when the Prince half- 
promised to attend to-night he had forgotten 
all about his prior engagement to go with his 
father and mother to the gala performance at 
Covent Garden. During the day an effort was 
made to fit the two functions, but this failed, 
and finally the play proceeded without Hamlet. 
The Prince is anxious to know more about the 
Labour Members, and another function will 
probably be arranged. 

In addition to playing the part of host, Sir 
Edward has also tried his hand at entertaining. 


9 MJQ1926 = 



I can only vouch for one occasion. Dr. Mac- 
namara and Sir Charles Sykes had just flashed on 
an astonished world as singers of comic songs. It 
was at a dinner to disabled ex-service men given 
by Sir Edward that Dr. Macnamara first dis- 
played his vocal gifts. For a week after that 
Littleton Park was noisy with song. Sir Edward 
Nicholl was practising. His opportunity came at 
another dinner a few weeks later. When called 
upon for a speech, he explained that he was really 
not in the mood for oratory, but that he would be 
very pleased to give a song. Loud applause, of 

I grieve to say, however, that the item was not 
the terrific success it was expected to be. The 
singer was there all right, and so were the songs, 
and the pianist but Sir Edward had forgotten 
his glasses, and as he had not committed the 
ballad to memory, his " yum-tiddley-um-tum " 
efforts did not convey the same idea of pathos as 
the touching words of the song would have done. 
He now has his glasses chained to his fountain 
pen ! 

During the Railway Strike of 1919 he was one 
of the few volunteers who successfully drove a 
Great Western Railway train. His chauffeur was 
his fireman. Lots of people tried their hardest to 
drive engines, but the number who managed to 
do so were very small. Sir Edward admits that 
he himself was a trifle nervous at first. It was 


not the starting that bothered him, but the 
pulling up at a station with a heavy load of 
thirteen or fourteen large coaches, weighing alto- 
gether over 300 tons, behind him. The days 
spent at Carn Brea and Swindon, however, came 
to his aid, and he not only ran trains to London, 
but he took them back to the country. One of 
his best stories deals with a lady who approached 
him at Paddington and tendered him half a crown 
each morning. His tips averaged over 2 each 
day until he was " given away " by the " Daily 


But, in case it should be thought that he is 
antagonistic to the Labour movement, let it be 
said that some of his best friends are Labour 
leaders. He mixes with them at the House of 
Commons far more than he does with the men 
of his own Party, and many of them have been 
his guests at Littleton Park. 

But he does not like strikes. He realises, as do 
most men, that there are times when they cannot 
be avoided, but he has always done his best to 
prevent them when the opportunity came his way. 
Just before the Coal Strike of 1920 he brought to- 
gether Mr. William Brace, M.P., and Mr. W. C. 
Bridgeman, M.P. He made a special journey to 
London to interview Sir Robert Home, and the 
meeting at his house that night was the result. 
It did not stop the strike, but it gave two men 
on opposite sides a chance of stating their cases ; 


and, in any event, Sir Edward was doing some- 
thing worth while when other people were merely 
engaged in wringing their hands. 

At home he is the host par excellence. His 
visitors' book tells its own tale of his frequent 
entertaining. Great names, with names more 
humble, may be found on every page. And, with 
it all, he is his own good self. Did he attempt to 
be other than he is, he would not be Edward 
Nicholl. His best friends are those with whom he 
laughed and lived in the days of long ago ; when 
a man keeps his friends it is certain that there is 
very little wrong with him. 

From the beginning he was determined to make 
good. Success has come to him because he did 
more than command it he proved that he de- 
served it. He stands revealed as one who has put 
great truth into Young's fine lines : - 

Too low they build 

Who build beneath the stars. 


Printed in Great Britain at 
Tfu Mayftowtr Prtts, Plymouth. William Brendon & Son, Ltd. 







9 AUG1926 


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